They’re coming! Payments are supposed to start “within the next three weeks.” As to exactly what that means, your guess is probably not much better than mine. If you filed a 2018 and/or 2019 tax return and got a refund via direct deposit, your payment will be the first to be rolled out and you don’t have to do anything except wait for it to hit your bank account. But here’s what I know with respect to non-filers and everything else…

  • If you are below the threshold for needing to file a tax return and receive Social Security Benefits you will not have to do anything else to receive your payment. It will be automatically posted to the bank account where your receive your Social Security payments.
  • If you are below the filing threshold but don’t receive Social Security Benefits you may need to file a “simple” return or possibly a “zero” return. The details of what exactly these returns are and how the IRS wants to accomplish this are not available yet. But this situation will most likely apply to people receiving VA benefits and Social Security Disability payments. Neither of those types of payments are processed through the “regular” Social Security system. Update: Per Eva Rosenberg, the Tax Mama, “All software companies received guidance today (April 6, 2020) for filing returns with $0 tax liability.” Nothing is live yet, but the tax practitioner community will be ready when it is. I expect that low-income taxpayers will be provided with instructions on how to do this via the IRS free-file system. I’ll do a post once I’m sure everything is up and running as well.
  • The most important thing to know is that you will not have to pay a return preparer or anyone else to get your EIP! The scammers will be out en masse for this one as will unscrupulous preparers who want to charge you $$$ to ensure you get your payment. I will post an update when I get confirmed information as to how to file for your payment or you can periodically check irs.gov/coronavirus to get information straight from the source! In the meantime, do not respond to calls or e-mails from people offering to help you get your payment! We are supposed to be receiving information on where to report the bad actors, but for obvious reasons, that’s taking a back seat to getting those payments processed.
  • If you did not get a refund (if you had a balance due) then the IRS does not have your direct deposit amount on file. Paper checks may take up to 5 months to arrive! In theory, 1) the IRS will start mailing paper checks in May and 2) they are working on an app similar to the “Where’s My Refund” App that would allow you to enter direct deposit information if you prefer to do that rather than to receive a paper check. The latest information I read said that this app would be ready by late April or early May. So I would expect that they will wait to start issuing paper checks until people have had a chance to opt-in to direct deposit via the app. That means if the app is late, the paper checks will be even later. Again, I will post updates as soon as I have reliable information or you can follow along at irs.gov/coronavirus to get information as they update it.
  • If the IRS is mailing you a check they may not have your most recent address. Or perhaps you no longer have the account where your most recent refund was direct deposited. Former Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, talks about her concerns with the implementation issues here. Not much we can do right now except to be aware of the potential bumps in the road that could delay your payment. It is really important not to call the IRS to ask about the amount of your payment or when to expect it. They are doing their best to continue to process 2019 returns, issue refunds, continue to work on other taxpayer issues, and to implement this new law. All with many staff working from home and many simply furloughed.
  • The additional $500 credit for “dependents” is for dependents who would qualify for the Child Tax Credit in 2020. That means children who turn 17 in 2020 do not qualify. At this time it is unclear if the system will be attempting to calculate payments based on your dependent child/children’s projected age in 2020. In other words, we don’t know if they are just going to look at your 2019 (or 2018) return, see if there’s a qualifying child and give you the $500 or if they are going to “do the math” to see how old that child will be in 2020. Surprise!
  • There’s kind of a “donut hole” for adult children in college. They are still dependents on their parents’ returns but they are too old to qualify for the Child Tax Credit. So the parents don’t get $500 but the kids don’t get a $1200 stimulus payment either. Trust me, Congress and the IRS are well aware of this issue by now. Whether or not they decide to address it in future legislation remains to be seen.
  • The EIPs are not subject to “offsets” other than child support. If you are behind on your child support, this payment will go towards that. But if you are behind on your taxes, your refund will not be used to offset balances due for federal or state returns.
  • This is not taxable income! It’s an “advance” on a refundable tax credit for 2020. That means (if you are a client) we will have to reconcile the amount of your credit received with what you were supposed to get on your 2020 tax return. So please, when you get your payment write down the amount of the credit, the date you got it, and how you got it (direct deposit or by paper check in the mail). If you didn’t get enough credit, the difference will be refunded when you file your 2020 tax return. If you got too much—nothing happens.

Finally, some people are saying “well, this won’t do me much good” and have asked about donating their payments. Of course you can! Here’s a list of some of the places I like to donate (in no particular order):

I also know that New Mexico’s school districts could use some help because they weren’t ready to pay for the cost of converting everyone to remote learning. The Navajo Nation and many of the pueblos are in dire need of help as well. If you are outside of New Mexico I recommend your local food banks, schools, local PBS, local arts organizations (who may be trying to help performing artists who are out of work), and charities that support your area’s indigenous populations.