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The Rebates Are On Their Way - But That's Not the End Of It!

By the time you read this article, the IRS has already started sending out the stimulus rebates. A new schedule was released, accelerating the distribution of the payments. Payments were direct deposited into qualifying individuals' bank accounts starting April 28 instead of May 2, and paper checks will be mailed starting May 9 instead of May 16. The schedule that was released in March remains the same, with payments either direct deposited or put in the mail by the dates listed on the schedule.

These rebates are actually advance payments for a new refundable tax credit called the “Recovery Rebate Credit” that is claimed on your 2008 tax return and must be accounted for when you file the 2008 tax return. So the government can get the money into people’s hands quickly and not wait for the 2008 returns to be filed in 2009, the IRS will calculate and mail out advance payments of this 2008 credit based upon the information included on a taxpayer’s 2007 tax return. The IRS will make a direct deposit of the advance payment into a taxpayer’s account if direct deposit was requested for the 2007 return refund. When the taxpayer files his or her 2008 return, the Recovery Rebate Credit will be reduced by the amount of the advance payment. Should the advance payment exceed the amount of the credit, the taxpayer will not be required to make up the difference!

Since these advance payments (cash rebates) are computed based on the data from the 2007 return, a 2007 return must be filed to obtain a cash rebate. Thus, some taxpayers (such as those receiving SS income and who are not otherwise required to file a return and otherwise qualify for the rebate) must file one to qualify for the advance payment. However, if a taxpayer does not file a 2007 return, he or she still would qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit when a 2008 return is filed. This also applies to taxpayers who file late. They do not lose the Recovery Rebate Credit; they just do not receive it in advance and will have to wait for the benefit when their 2008 return is filed. The IRS is prohibited from issuing advance payments after December 31, 2008.

How much will your rebate be? The rebates are broken into two categories, the basic credit rebate and the qualifying child rebate credit. For the basic credit rebate, a single person with no qualifying children gets a maximum rebate of $600 or a minimum rebate of $300. A married couple filing jointly with no qualifying children gets a maximum rebate of $1,200 or a minimum rebate of $600. To receive the maximum, your 2007 tax (figured in a special way) must be $600 or more for a single person and $1,200 or more for a married couple filing jointly. To get the minimum, you must have at least $3,000 of qualifying income (explained above) or owe tax (figured in a special way) of at least $1. Your rebate amount will fall in between the minimum and maximum if your tax is more than $300 but less than the maximum rebate for your filing status. In that case, your rebate will be equal to your tax. Let’s say that you are single and that your tax is $500. In this scenario, your rebate will be $500.

An eligible individual who is entitled to any amount of the basic credit is also allowed a credit equal to $300 for each qualifying child of the individual in addition to the basic credit. “Qualifying child” has the same meaning for this purpose as it has for purposes of the child tax credit. Thus, for each child who qualifies for the child tax credit, a taxpayer qualifies for an additional $300 rebate.
For example, a married couple filing jointly with one qualifying child could be eligible for a maximum rebate of $1,500 ($1,200 $300).

Phase-out for higher-income taxpayers: The amount of the rebate (both the basic and the child amount) is reduced by 5% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) above $75,000 ($150,000 for joint returns). For example, a married couple filing jointly with one child has an AGI of $170,000 and a net tax liability of over $1,200. Their rebate is $500: [$1,200 basic rebate plus $300 qualifying child rebate - $1,000 phase-out (i.e., 5% × ($170,000 - $150,000)].

Do all qualified individuals get rebates? No. Each individual must qualify for the rebates in one of two ways, and the rebates and the credit in 2008 is phased out for higher-income taxpayers. To qualify, a taxpayer must (1) owe tax, as computed in a special way, or (2) have at least $3,000 of qualifying income. Qualifying income generally includes earned income, social security benefits, and veterans’ disability payments (including payments to survivors of disabled veterans).

If you think that you might qualify for the rebate and have not yet filed a return, please call this office for assistance.

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