House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during her weekly press conference, noted that she had been in touch with president-elect Joe Biden and expressed a desire to continue negotiating with Republicans.
“We spoke about the intensifying pandemic, epidemic – pandemic and the economic crisis accompanying it and about the urgent need for Congress to pass a bipartisan bill in the lame-duck session that provides resources to fight the pandemic and relief …” she said.
With COVID-19 cases rising and the U.S. leading the world in coronavirus cases and deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus dashboard, many have predicted a worse pandemic. Additionally, the combination of benefits that will expire in 2021 and the lack of a new stimulus package are expected to produce dire results, including more deaths, business closures, food insecurity and evictions across the country.
However, there is still a chance that the two main negotiators of a coronavirus relief bill, Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell — both of whom have said that they want to move forward on a new stimulus package — will pass a bill.
If they do, here are five things you can do during negotiations to ensure you receive your next check sooner:
1. Complete the Non-Filers Tool If You Haven’t Filed for Taxes Since 2017
As the IRS stated in a press release in early October, the deadline to use the agency’s Non-Filers tool is November 21, 2020. If you miss the deadline, you will have to wait for the 2020 tax refund to receive your economic impact payment.
People with a valid Social Security number who were not claimed as dependents on any tax forms and did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 need to use the tool. That includes:
- Single people who make less than $12,200
- Couples who make less than $24,400
- Emancipated minors who have not filed for taxes before
- College students who meet the income requirements
- People who are currently incarcerated and/or have been incarcerated since 2018
For more information about the Non-Filers tool, you can visit the IRS webpage here. See #5 in this article for more information about eligibility requirements.
2. Set Up Direct Deposit With the IRS
People who did not have direct deposit set up for their tax returns or who have recently moved may experience difficulty accessing their checks and proving that they never received the checks, which can make accessing your money take much longer.
As the IRS wrote, “In certain situations, Get My Payment will give you the option of providing your bank account information to receive your payment by direct deposit.” You can learn more about the Get My Payment tool here.
For people who believe they will miss the deadline to use the IRS’ Non-Filers tool and will have to wait to receive it along with their 2020 tax refund, you can select direct deposit as the option for how to receive your refund if you are using tax software, such as TurboTax, to file your return. This will automatically add it to the IRS system.
If you already have direct deposit information on file with the IRS but the information you provided to the IRS is no longer accurate, the IRS has said it will mail a paper check. Therefore, it is important to ensure you have an updated mailing address and you may need to call the IRS to provide that information and verify your identity. Instructions on how to reach a real live person at the IRS are available here. It’s important to note that, for fraud prevention reasons, you cannot change the direct deposit information that you already have on file with the IRS.
3. Set Up Power of Attorney With Incarcerated Loved Ones
The IRS had released advice to withhold checks from people who were incarcerated on May 6, 2020, according to what was quoted in a District Court document. However, a judge who heard a class action lawsuit started by two California inmates, Lisa Strawn and Colin School, ordered the IRS to distribute forms and information on how to access the payments.
Incarcerated people with access to computers can still use the Non-Filers tool up until November 21.
However, those who do not have access to a computer can still receive their check if they have a loved one acting on their behalf. To legally do so, loved ones must possess legal power of attorney, which will allow them to open a bank in their incarcerated loved one’s name and deposit the check with their name on it. The process typically requires sending your incarcerated loved one forms that must be filled out before a notary, with the originals returned to the sender.
Some people have experienced difficulty when going through this process, as one law firm blog post written on October 10 noted,
My loved one is incarcerated and has authorized me to file a claim – is that ok?
We are aware that IRS representatives have been giving conflicting information in response to this question. It has been reported widely that an IRS official advised California correctional authorities (CDCR) that families may file online for their loved ones inside. IRS separately advised counsel that it believes that all claims should be filed by claimants themselves, but despite our requests for clarification IRS has not disagreed that it told CDCR to encourage online filings.
However, here is a document of advice from the IRS on being a power of attorney as well as some guidance from the website, People Against Prison Abuse.
It should be noted that the next coronavirus relief bill may explicitly exclude incarcerated people.
4. Pay Off Child Support Debts or Set Up a Payment Plan
CNET noted that even though the CARES Act insulated payments from being seized for several different types of debt, child support was not one of the exemptions. Being more than $150 in arrears (debt) of child support meant that the state could seize part or all of any stimulus payments and put it toward the child support balance.
According to the IRS, “If you owe past-due child support, your payment will be offset. If your spouse does not owe child support, they will receive their portion of the payment and do not need to take any action to receive it.”
According to CNET, the Democrats’ $3.4 trillion proposed HEROES Act prevented stimulus checks from being used to “offset” child support, while the Republicans’ $1.3 trillion proposed HEALS Act allowed stimulus checks to be used to offset child support debt. Although the next coronavirus relief measure may not allow checks to be garnished for child support, one way to avoid having to worry about this issue is by paying back the balance.
You can also attempt to set up a payment plan through your state’s child support enforcement agency so that the state suspends the enforcement of collection on whatever arrears you owe of child support. To reach your state’s child support office, here is a list of state contacts from the Department of Health and Human Services.
5. Know Your Eligibility Status
The process or mechanism for receiving stimulus checks may not be the same for everyone. For example, in April, the IRS reported that Social Security recipients should automatically receive stimulus check payments.
Under the CARES Act, here is who was eligible, according to the IRS and reporting from CNET:
- Non-U.S. citizens with Social Security numbers and “resident aliens,” such as green card holders and those with H-1B and H-2A visas.
- College students who were not claimed as dependents on anyone’s tax return
- Those under the following income limits: $150,000 if married and filing a joint return, $112,500 if filing as head of household or $75,000 for eligible individuals using any other filing status
You can watch out for any eligibility changes in who is listed as a dependent as well as if any of the above rules are changed. However, if you meet those requirements, you would likely be able to take advantage of any new stimulus checks.
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