- The Treasury Department announced that Americans receiving Social Security benefits no longer need to file a tax return to qualify for a $1,200 check from the federal government.
- The reversal comes after the IRS instructed Social Security beneficiaries on Monday to file a “simple” tax return, provoking extensive backlash from advocates and lawmakers.
- Advocates said vulnerable Americans should not be required to file a return in the middle of a pandemic, since the government already sends them monthly payments.
- 41 Democratic senators sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday urging to make the payments automatic.
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The Treasury Department announced late on Wednesday that Americans receiving Social Security benefits no longer have to file their taxes to get a $1,200 stimulus check from the federal government.
“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,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The reversal comes after the IRS directed Social Security beneficiaries on Monday to file a “simple” tax return to be eligible, provoking extensive backlash from advocates and lawmakers.
The move could have shut out millions of elderly and disabled people from getting a check under the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that President Donald Trump recently signed into law. People are eligible for the money even if they haven’t filed a tax return in several years, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The legislation already contained language saying Treasury would review Social Security data for seniors and disabled people to deliver their money. Individuals earning below $75,000 are set to get the full $1,200 check, but the amount gradually scales down until cutting off eligibility for single-filers earning more than $99,000.
Advocates for low-income Americans argued the additional hurdle would burden people during a public-health crisis.
Chye-Ching Huang, the director of economic policy at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a tweet that “it makes no sense to impose a new paperwork burden on millions of seniors during a pandemic.”
The IRS development provoked extensive criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, 41 senators sent a letter to the Trump administration urging it to reconsider, saying that instructing older Americans and people with disabilities to file a tax return would be “a significant burden.”
They called for making the payments automatic instead.
Some Republicans were angered as well. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said Congress included language in the stimulus law to ensure that Social Security beneficiaries wouldn’t have to file a tax return to receive the money.
“IRS should follow the law that Congress passed,” Hawley said in a tweet.
—Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) April 1, 2020
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that about 15 million Americans on Social Security would have to file a return to get the payment, even though the government already sends them monthly checks.
When the Bush administration sent $600 checks to Americans before the 2008 financial crisis, nearly 3.5 million people on Social Security missed out on the payment because they were similarly required to file a tax return and didn’t do so.
Mnuchin previously said the tax-free payments will start going out by April 17, beginning with direct deposits and then checks in the mail.
Dependents older than 16, people without a Social Security number, and single filers earning more than $99,000 a year are among the people who won’t get checks.
This story has been updated.