Coronavirus stimulus checks: IRS releases new 'simple tax return'

The form is intended assist the federal government in knowing where to send the cash for those who don't normally file.
U.S Treasury Facility Prints Social Security Checks
Blank U.S. Treasury checks run through a printer at the U.S. Treasury printing facility on July 18, 2011 in Philadelphia.William Thomas Cain / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

People who don't normally file tax returns but want to receive a coronavirus stimulus payment finally have a clear way to get their information to the federal government.

The IRS released a new "simple tax return" tool Friday that can be filled out online, geared toward low-income people and others who aren't required to file tax returns. The stimulus bill based eligibility for the checks or direct deposits on federal tax returns, sparking widespread confusion about how non-tax filers would qualify and how the IRS would know where to send the cash.

Anyone who already filed a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019 doesn't need to fill out the form. People who get Social Security retirement or disability benefits, as well as Railroad Retirement benefits, also do not need to fill out the form. It remains unclear whether those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) need to submit the form, but tax experts recommend they do so just in case.

People who are not on Social Security but make too little to owe taxes, or otherwise don't have to file tax returns, should submit the "simple tax return." That includes people who are homeless or recently incarcerated who may not have recent information on file with the IRS.

Filing the simple tax return requires far less detailed financial information that the typical Form 1040 that most Americans use to file income taxes.

You start by creating a username and password. You need to provide your full name, email and mailing address, along with your date of birth and your driver's license, if you have one. You also need a valid Social Security number, which is required to qualify for a payment, as well as the name and valid Social Security number of any child you are claiming as a dependent.

If you have a bank account, you'll be asked for the account number, type of account and routing number, so the government can send you the payment by direct deposit.

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After submitting the form, you'll get an email telling you whether or not it was successful and how to fix it if it wasn't. The information will be relayed to the IRS, which will determine whether you qualify for a payment and sent it to you if you do.

As Americans have struggled to decipher the $2 trillion stimulus and how to ensure they get assistance, several major tax preparers have also created their own easy-to-use tools to get the needed information to the IRS. TaxAct is offering a free "Stimulus Registration" tool that walks users through the process of filing a basic return to qualify for a payment.

The CARES ACT that Congress passed last month and President Donald Trump signed into law authorized one-time cash payments of up to $1,200 for an individual or $2,400 for a couple who files taxes jointly, plus another $500 for parents of children 16 years or younger. Individuals who make less than $75,000 or couples making less than $150,000 qualify for the full amount.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said payments will start going out by the end of next week for people whose direct deposit information is already on file with the IRS. Social Security recipients should expect to see the money deposited into their accounts later in April, and the IRS will start sending out paper checks in May.

The IRS is still expected to create a separate online portal for people who have already filed tax returns to update their direct deposit information with the IRS. That may prove particularly useful for people whose bank account has changed, did not get their tax refund direct deposited, or did not qualify for a tax refund when they last filed. It's unclear when that web portal will go live.