Facing stiff criticism, the U.S. Treasury Department changed course late Wednesday and announced that Social Security beneficiaries and other Americans who haven’t filed income taxes for the past two years won’t have to take any extra steps to receive one-time checks of up to $1,200 under a new economic recovery program.
“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Most Americans won’t have to do anything to receive a payment under the $2.2 trillion program designed to help the economy recover from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The checks will be sent automatically within the next three weeks to eligible Americans who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019.
The Internal Revenue Service posted a notice on its website this week that people who typically don’t file taxes would need to file a simple tax return to receive one of the payments. That would have included low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return.
Wednesday’s announcement reverses that decision. Mnuchin said the IRS will use Social Security data to generate payments to recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits, he said.
The Treasury Department has the authority under the economic recovery program, which President Donald Trump signed into law last week, to ask the Social Security Administration and other agencies to supply the data it needs to process the checks.
“One of the reasons Treasury officials may have wanted to require a simple tax form from those who haven’t paid taxes in the past two years is to make sure they are sending checks to the most up-to-date address,” said Kyle Pomerleau, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank.
“Lots of people move, so this is a reasonable way to deal with it,” he said.
The downside, Pomerleau said, “is that you are shifting part of the burden on people by requiring them to do something to get their rebate.”
Credit: USA Today