taxes for all
April 1, 2020

Editor's note: After this article was published, the IRS updated its guidelines. It now says people who do not normally file taxes do not need to do so to receive an Economic Impact Payment, and that the IRS will use 1099 forms to determine eligibility for $1,200 payments. Read more here. Our original report appears below.

This year, tax season is for everyone.

President Trump approved a COVID-19 congressional spending package last week that would grant $1,200 individual checks to Americans making up to $75,000 each year; the benefits start to phase out after that threshold. But to access that check, Americans will have to file some kind of tax return even if they usually don't have to, IRS guidelines say.

Some Social Security recipients, senior citizens, low-income taxpayers, veterans, and people with disabilities are exempt from filing their taxes every year. Those exempt people most likely took in far less money than the coronavirus stimulus threshold and are counting on getting additional checks. But to do so, they'll have to file at least a simple tax return, and the IRS is recommending they do so as soon as possible.

But if those Americans are unfamiliar with filing taxes, the IRS's requirement could create even more problems, Seth Hanlon, a fellow at the progressive Center for American Progress, noted on Twitter. Filing programs for senior citizens such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly have been shut down during the coronavirus crisis, and instead of calling the IRS for help, the agency recommends people with questions simply keep checking its website for updates.

Overall, it's unclear why this tax filing requirement is even necessary, seeing as the CARES Act spending package specifically allows the Treasury Department to use Social Security benefit information to figure out who's eligible for the payment. Kathryn Krawczyk

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