Reality Check: Government Stimulus Payments

Tuesday was the tax deadline across the country, and while residents are paying out now, some money is likely heading their way.

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In this “Reality Check,” WISC-TV breaks down what people need to know about the government stimulus payments.

The federal government is sending out stimulus checks to taxpayers in an effort to jumpstart the slumping economy. How the amount of the stimulus check depends on a person’s income.

Stimulus checks will be no more than $600 for a single person or $1,200 for married couples. People could get up to $300 for each child under age 17.

There is an income ceiling for singles and couples, so those making too much money might get a reduced payment or no payment at all.

To get a payment, people must file a tax return for 2007.

Those who don’t normally file but have an income of $3,000 or more can get a stimulus check by filling out selected parts of a 1040-A form and mailing it by Oct. 15.

The stimulus checks will start appearing in mailboxes in May, but not everyone will get the cash right away. The response time depends on the last two numbers of the main filer’s Social Security number and whether that person selected direct deposit for his or her tax refund.

All direct deposit checks will come in May. Social Security numbers ending in 00 through 20 will arrive by May 2; Social Security numbers ending in 21 through 75 by May 9; and Social Security numbers ending in 76 through 99 by May 16.

Everyone else who qualifies will get a check in the mail on a schedule with 00 through 09 starting May 16 and ending with 88 through 99 in July.

The stimulus checks aren’t taxable, meaning that they won’t affect how much a person owes or would get back on next year’s taxes. But taxpayers should keep the letter they receive listing the amount of their payment because they might be eligible for more later.

Those who haven’t paid taxes in a while won’t get a check because the stimulus payment will automatically go toward the amount owed.

College students probably pay some income taxes if they have a part-time job, so they might be eligible for a stimulus check. College students won’t have money coming in if they are a dependent on their parents’ taxes, but if they file independently, they could get a stimulus check.

For those who don’t get a payment this year because they make too much or too little, there is still a chance they could get a check if their situation changes in the next year.

For instance, a senior citizen with a part-time job who works more hours might qualify later. Or, if a person’s income puts him or her outside the maximum level now but they contribute more to a 401(k) or a tax deductible IRA, they might qualify for a check.

People who might qualify based on a changed situation could get a check next year. There will be instructions on next year’s taxes about how to get what is owed.