The IRS estimates that eight million households were eligible for payments when the first and second rounds of stimulus were distributed, but they never received the money. In most cases, this is because the IRS did not have a recent tax return on file.
The Treasury Department says that anyone missing a check can claim it on their 2020 income tax return. There’s a catch, though: If the filer owes back taxes, those will be deducted from the amount of the stimulus paid.
Some people don’t file taxes because their income is below the threshold required for filing. Senior citizens whose only income is Social Security rarely need to file, for example. These folks are unlikely to owe back taxes and would benefit from receiving $1,200. Other people don’t file because they are disorganized or because they are evading taxes that they owe. They are likely to owe back taxes, and possibly greater than $1,200.
The IRS has an online tool to help people determine if it is necessary or worth their while to file a tax return. The agency has also announced an outreach program to find people who have not cashed the payments already received. This data will help expand the Treasury’s understanding of people who are not well served by existing financial institutions, a point that seems small but that could prove important for overall economic access.
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