By Johnny Jackson
Millions of taxpayers, including low-income senior citizens, could receive hundreds in income tax rebates this year.
The rebates are a part of a recently passed federal economic stimulus plan to help stimulate the economy and fend off the threat of recession.
"Do your return correctly, and if you're eligible, you'll get it," said Judith Ogden, accounting club and VITA advisor at Clayton State University.
Eligible taxpayers need to file a 2007 tax return to get the rebates, also called "economic stimulus payments."
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will use information on the 2007 tax return filed by the taxpayer to determine eligibility and calculate the amount of the rebates.
In most cases, Georgia taxpayers will not have to do anything extra to get the rebate. More than 130 million taxpayers can expect the rebate starting in May.
Individual taxpayers, who file, and are eligible, will automatically receive as much as $600.
The rebates will be directly deposited for taxpayers who will, or have selected the option, when they file their 2007 tax returns, according to IRS spokesman Mark Green.
Direct deposit, Green says, is the fastest way to get both regular refunds and economic stimulus payments.
The payments, in many cases, will equal the amount of tax liability on the tax return. The maximum payments are $600 for individual taxpayers and $1,200 for taxpayers filing jointly.
Those who qualify for a payment will receive an additional $300 for each child who qualifies for the child tax credit.
Payments to higher income taxpayers will be reduced by 5 percent of the amount of adjusted gross income above $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for those filing jointly.
Low-income taxpayers may also benefit from the plan, according to Green.
The plan also allows payments to select taxpayers who have no tax liability like low-income workers. Those receiving Social Security benefits or veterans' disability compensation, pensions, or survivors' benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007 also may be eligible.
They will be eligible to receive $300 individually and $600 jointly, if they had at least $3,000 of qualifying income, Green said. They must file a 2007 return in order to receive a payment.
Qualifying income includes Social Security benefits, certain Railroad Retirement benefits, certain veterans' benefits and earned income from wages, salaries, tips, self-employment, among other forms of income.
Recipients of Social Security, certain Railroad Retirement and certain veterans' benefits should report their 2007 benefits on Line 14a of Form 1040A or Line 20a of Form 1040. Taxpayers who already have filed, but failed to report the benefits can file an amended return by using Form 1040X.
"The IRS is working with the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that recipients are aware of this issue," Green said.
Many would-be recipients, particularly seniors, have contacted the IRS with questions regarding the rebates.
"Some people receiving Social Security and veterans' benefits may not realize they will need to file a tax return to get the stimulus payment," Green added. "To reach these people, the IRS and Treasury will work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration and key beneficiary groups on outreach efforts. Our goal is to reach as many qualifying recipients as possible."
Officials urge that taxpayers file tax returns properly the first time to be sure to receive a rebate or stimulus payment they are eligible for.
When filing, "it's always helpful to have your previous year's return," said Judith Ogden, of Clayton State's VITA program. "Sometimes there's a link to what you had last year and what you'll need this year."
Taxpayers filing their 2007 tax return should file a change of address card with the U.S. Postal Service if they move or plan on moving soon.
Taxpayers must have valid Social Security Numbers to qualify for the stimulus payment. If married and filing jointly, both taxpayers must have a valid Social Security Number, and children must have valid Social Security Numbers to be eligible as qualifying children.
Taxpayers who file their returns using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number issued by the IRS or any number issued by the IRS are ineligible. Also ineligible are individuals who can be claimed as dependents on someone else's return, or taxpayers who file Form 1040-NR, 1040-PR or 1040-SS.
Also, taxpayers should be aware of tax rebate scams that may include telephone calls or e-mails claiming to be from the IRS and asking for sensitive financial information. The IRS will not call or e-mail taxpayers about these payments, nor will it ask for financial information.
The IRS will continue sending payments until Dec. 31, 2008, to accommodate taxpayers who file tax returns later in the year.
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