The Internal Revenue Service is beginning the process of sending out COVID-19 economic relief payments. Americans who filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, as well as folks who got Social Security retirement or disability payments or Railroad Retirement benefits, don't have to do anything.
The IRS will use the tax return or other government payment information on file to send the money, which could be a maximum of $1,200 per individual or $2,400 for married couples who file jointly, to these eligible recipients.
Some people, however, don’t fall into these already on-record categories. The most notable group here is low-income workers who do not make enough money to require that they file a Form 1040.
But these folks could benefit greatly from the added cash. And the IRS now has an online tool to help them get their portion of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief.
COVID payment filing for non-filers: The new Non-Filer Payment tool is designed for use by single filers who in 2019 made less than $12,200 and married couples who earned less than $24,400 and did not or do not plan to file a tax return.
A quick filing note. Some folks who don't have to file do so anyway for other reasons, usually to get refunds of taxes that were withheld or to claim a tax credit for which they qualify. If you are one of these folks who has or will file even though your income is within the ranges established for the non-filers payment tool, do not use it. The IRS has your information and should sent you your COVID-19 payments automatically.
If, however, you do need to get your information to the IRS, go to the special web filing tool as soon as possible.
And a bit of bad news for students who might fall into these earnings limits.
If someone else claimed you on their tax return, you will not be eligible for the Economic Impact Payment and cannot use the Non-Filer tool. Sorry, but there may be some future relief for you (or your family) thanks to a bill pending in Congress to expand payments to college students (and others), and which might become part of future COVID-19 legislation.
Before you start: But back to now and the non-filer online form. As with all interactions with Uncle Sam's tax collector, you'll need some information handy before you start.
In the case of the non-filer online tool, you'll have to provide your:
- Full name, current mailing address and an email address
- Date of birth and valid Social Security number
- Bank account number, type and routing number, if you have one and want your payment directly deposited. (If you don't have a bank account, your COVID-19 payment will be mailed to the address on the form.)
- Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) you received from the IRS earlier this year, if you have one
- Driver’s license or state-issued ID, if you have one
- For each qualifying child: name, Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number and their relationship to you or your spouse
Got all that? Good. Then on to the tool.
Entering your info: After an introduction page again spelling out who should and should not use it, the special web page will ask you to create an account.
This account creation process was designed for the IRS by Intuit, maker of TurboTax and a member of the Free File Alliance that works with IRS' Free File online tax return preparation and e-filing option. In this case, it's based on the fillable forms option, which takes basic tax returns and makes then accessible to be filled out via computer and then electronically filed.
Privacy alert: If you're worried about what Uncle Sam and/or the tax software manufacturer will do with your data, check out the new web page's privacy statement.
Once you're satisfied and/or comfortable with the process, then you'll enter your email address, a user name, password and an option phone number.
Neither the IRS nor Intuit will call you, according to the registration instructions. The phone number will be used, according to the page, only to help recover your account if you forget your password.
But there's no choice as far as an email. You must have one to eventually e-file your return.
Here's a quick email hint. After you're done with this account creation page, go to your email (in a new browser window) and find the message from the IRS. It will have a link asking you to verify the email account. Do that. Your email must be verified before you can, a little later in the process, e-file your return.
Personally, I'm always a little leery about leaving an online application for fear of not getting back in. By verifying it first (again in a separate browser window), you won't have to leave the filing process when you get to the end of form and it tells you that your email must be verified. And you (OK, I) also will be confident that the actual return e-filing will be completed without a hitch.
Short COVID tax form: As for the return itself, it's pretty basic. Below are some screen shots.
The image above is actually three screen shots. To get a bigger, better look at each segment, click on them (1) near the top, (2) in the area where you see lines to enter dependents' information and (3) near the end.
The key area is in the middle section, where it asks for your bank information (routing number and specific account number) and whether it's a checking or savings account. This info will let the IRS directly deposit your COVID-19 relief payment.
If you don't have a bank account, the payment will be sent to the address you've entered via U.S. mail.
Again, it's pretty basic, self-explanatory and quick for most folks to complete.
E-filing the form: Then it's on to Step 2, the actual electronic filing of the form.
This is where things might get a bit uncomfortable, especially for folks who've not filed a tax return for a while. In fact, this page could be quite intimidating.
The online non-filer tool asks for info from your 2018 tax return, like your adjusted gross income (AGI), or a signature Personal Identification Number (PIN).
Don't freak out. If you didn't file a return for the 2018 tax year, enter 0 (zero) in the "Taxpayer" AGI space. If you're filling out this form jointly with your spouse and he or she didn't file a return last year either, also enter zero in the "Spouse" AGI space.
E-signing, e-filing your return: Next, you'll have to sign your return electronically. Start by entering the date, cell number if you have one, and a five-digit PIN of your choosing (other than 00000 or 12345) for both you and, if you're jointly filing, your spouse.
You'll also have to enter your (and spouse's) birth date(s) and, if you (and spouse) have one, your state issued driver's license or ID card number.
Then to the final step. Continue to e-file.
I must admit that I didn't go there, as I have filed in the last two years so I don't meet the non-filer tool's requisite info. Also, I kept getting a "we're updating the system message" and I didn't want to jam it up even more with an invalid filing.
But if it works like my software filing program, you'll get an onscreen message that your form has been filed. The non-filer tool also says it will send you a verification and filing status update to the email your provided.
More online COVID payment help on the way: The Non-Filer tool that went live today is just the first of online options to help everyone who qualifies get their COVID-19 relief payments.
The IRS says it is building a second new tool to help everyone check on the status of their payments. It should be available for use by April 17. This option, dubbed Get My Payment, will provide people with the status of their payment, including the date their payment is scheduled to be deposited into their bank account or mailed to them.
An additional feature on Get My Payment will allow eligible people a chance to provide their bank account information so they can receive their payment more quickly rather than waiting for a paper check.
One not so welcome note here, however, is that the IRS say this feature will not be available if your COVID payment has already has been scheduled for delivery via an alternate method, i.e., snail mail. Bummer.
But I'd still check it out just in case you beat the IRS to the issuance of your payment.
|Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.
But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.
You also might find these items of interest:
- 5 tax tips for Free File users
- IRS Free File now open for the 2020 tax season
- 6 things that could delay the arrival or lower the amount of your tax refund