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Kokua Line: IRS says people who should have received stimulus must file 2020 federal income tax return to claim credit

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Question: Regarding the $600 stimulus payment, I am receiving just Social Security benefits and was not required to file a 2019 federal tax return. To date, I have not received the $600. Are recipients of Social Security who did not file for 2019 now required to file a 2020 federal tax return in order to receive the $600 under the Recovery credit? I was under the impression if you receive Social Security you would receive the $600 as long as you qualified.

Answer: Your impression was correct, although in some cases the money isn’t coming through. It could be that you will still receive a check or debit card in the mail, but if that doesn’t occur, you’ll have to file a federal tax return to claim the credit, according to the IRS.

“Most Social Security retirement and disability beneficiaries, railroad retirees and those receiving veterans’ benefits do not need to take any action to receive a payment. (Last year) the IRS worked directly with the relevant federal agencies to obtain the information needed to send out the new payments the same way benefits for this group are normally paid. For eligible people in this group who didn’t receive a payment for any reason, they can file a 2020 tax return,” the agency said in a statement.

Although most direct deposits have already been made, checks and debit cards dispersed by mail take longer to arrive. If you don’t receive any payment by the end of January, assume that you will have to file a tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, it indicates.

To answer another reader, yes, Social Security beneficiaries and others who received the first round of stimulus via a Direct Express debit card would receive the second payment by the same method, assuming they are eligible for the second payment, the IRS said.

The Direct Express prepaid debit card is different from the Economic Impact Payment debit card, which also has been mailed out across the country.

Check the status of your payment at payment. If you are eligible for a stimulus payment, the website should say how much you are getting, by what method and when it was issued.

Q: Last time I got the stimulus on the debit card. Were we supposed to keep that? Will they reload money on that? I spent mine and cut up the card.

A: No and no. If you are eligible for a second stimulus payment, you could be paid by direct deposit, check or debit card, depending on the information the IRS has on file for you. If you are paid by debit card, you will receive a new card — money isn’t being reloaded onto Economic Impact Payment debit cards issued in the first round, according to the IRS.

Q: The first stimulus was a big mess for me because my husband had died over a year ago and they sent us a combined check anyway, and I tried to return it and it was a lot of trouble to get my share back. Is that going to happen again? I got a check last time, and nothing has come so far.

A: No, according to the IRS. The agency says it has corrected this problem for the second round of stimulus payments:

“A payment won’t be issued to someone who has died before January 1, 2020. If you filed a joint return in 2019 and your spouse died before January 1, 2020, you won’t receive a $600 payment for your deceased spouse, but you’ll still be issued up to $600 for you and $600 for any qualifying children, if all other eligibility criteria are met.

“With regard to eligible individuals who died in 2020, the Recovery Rebate Credit may be claimed on line 30 of their 2020 tax return. Please refer to the instructions for the 2020 Form 1040 for more information.”

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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