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Millions of people who were eligible for $1,200 stimulus checks still may not have received their money.
Now, the Government Accountability Office and a few Democratic members of Congress are calling for the IRS and Treasury Department to step up their efforts to get the relief to those Americans.
“An [economic impact payment] of $1,200, $2,400, or more can be a lifeline for a family in severe financial distress, especially at this time of year,” a group of House Democrats wrote in a letter sent to the IRS on Thursday.
The economic impact payments, otherwise known as stimulus checks, were authorized by Congress with the CARES Act this spring to help Americans cope with the Covid pandemic.
The payments included up to $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per married couple, plus $500 per child under 17. To qualify for full payments, individuals and families had to be below certain income thresholds. Generally, that was $75,000 and under in adjusted gross income for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. The amount of the payments was gradually phased out for those with incomes above those levels.
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The IRS and Treasury Department sent out more than 165.8 million payments totaling $274.7 billion as of Sept. 30.
But because those payments generally were sent based on prior tax returns, low-income individuals and families who are not required to file may have been left out.
In September, almost 9 million people were sent mail notices from the IRS to let them know they might qualify for the one-time payment. Those people had until Nov. 21 to submit their information on the IRS non-filer online tool.
A recent GAO report noted that the Treasury Department and IRS do not plan to analyze the effectiveness of that outreach until 2021.
The delayed analysis means the agencies will miss the opportunity to redirect their efforts, if needed, the GAO report said.
“GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, should begin tracking and publicly reporting the number of individuals who were mailed an [economic impact payment] notification letter and filed for and received an [economic impact payment], and use that information to inform ongoing outreach and communications efforts,” the report said.
The Treasury Department, the report said, has agreed with that recommendation.
Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats in their Dec. 3 letter urged the IRS to resolve their constituents’ inquiries about missing stimulus checks before Dec. 31.
Congressional offices currently have the ability to submit constituents’ stimulus check queries to a special IRS mailbox, which has received a massive volume of inquiries, the House lawmakers said.
However, the mailbox stopped taking new inquiries as of Nov. 30, while the IRS plans to stop working existing cases as of Dec. 10. Those who are still waiting for their payments will be able to get a recovery rebate credit when they file their 2020 tax returns in the spring.
But the Democratic lawmakers argue that is not soon enough for constituents who have escalated their cases to the agency.
“We urge the IRS to keep the [economic impact payment] mailbox open through the end of the 2021 filing season,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
“This not only will enable the IRS to continue addressing existing constituent inquiries and making payments through Dec. 31, 2020, but will also allow the IRS to assist additional constituents who encounter issues when trying to claim a recovery rebate credit on their 2020 tax return,” they said.
The letter was signed by 23 House Democrats, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Bill Pascrell, Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight.