The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service reversed their stance late Wednesday 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.
Treasury will now provide automatic coronavirus relief payments for Social Security beneficiaries.
“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not to need take an action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate $1,200 Economic Impact Payments to Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019, Mnuchin said.
“Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits,” he explained.
In a letter sent early Wednesday to Mnuchin and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, along with 39 other senators, told the IRS that its guidance contradicted the CARES Act’s treatment of vulnerable individuals in receiving direct stimulus checks.
The IRS guidance indicated that the agency “may require recipients of Social Security retirement and disability benefits to file 2019 tax returns to receive stimulus payments,” the senators wrote.
The 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.
Kevin Brady, R-Texas, ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, said late Wednesday that “seniors need relief, and quickly, so I applaud the Trump administration’s decision to provide automatic coronavirus relief payments to Social Security beneficiaries. This will make it easier for seniors to receive their checks.”
Relief checks, Brady said, “will come quickly and without hassle — vulnerable seniors and individuals with disabilities at risk should be able to avoid extra paperwork. The key to fast, timely action during this global pandemic is bipartisan solutions, not partisan bomb-throwing.”