Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Internal Revenue Service to correct guidance it issued Monday stating that Social Security beneficiaries would need to file tax returns in order to receive direct cash assistance payments under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and 39 other senators told the IRS that its guidance contradicts the CARES Act’s treatment of vulnerable individuals in receiving direct stimulus checks.
The IRS guidance indicates that the agency “may require recipients of Social Security retirement and disability benefits to file 2019 tax returns to receive stimulus payments,” the lawmakers wrote.
This filing requirement, the lawmakers said, “would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Many Social Security recipients who do not have any other income do not file tax returns.
To ensure that these vulnerable individuals automatically receive stimulus payments, the CARES Act “explicitly provides the Treasury Department with the authority to provide payments to seniors receiving Social Security retirement benefits and to individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits, even if these individuals do not file tax returns,” the letter states.
The IRS will automatically send stimulus payments to eligible taxpayers who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return.