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Economic Stimulus Payments: Information for Low-Income Individuals

Updated July 18, 2008

This section is for people who work but do not earn enough money to have a requirement to file a tax return. The IRS and Treasury are working with many organizations to ensure that all eligible individuals know what to do to receive a stimulus payment.

Normally, people who receive wages or self-employment below a certain amount are not required to file a tax return. However, the economic stimulus law passed in February contains a special provision allowing low-wage workers with at least $3,000 in qualified income to qualify for the stimulus payment. There also is a payment of $300 for each eligible child under age 17. See eligibility requirements below.

For eligible workers, the IRS has prepared an 8-page informational package that includes instructions, a sample Form 1040A and a blank Form 1040A — everything needed to file a tax return today.

Basic Eligibility Requirements
  • You have, or your family has, at least $3,000 in qualifying income from, or in combination with, Social Security benefits, certain Veterans Affairs benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits and earned income. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment.

  • You and any family members listed on your tax return have valid Social Security numbers.

  • You are not a dependent or eligible to be a dependent on someone else’s federal tax return. (The same must be true of any family members claimed on your return.)

How It Works

Following are two scenarios in which taxpayers qualify for the economic stimulus payment:

  • Tony is not married. He receives help, including some financial assistance, during the year from local social service organizations. He also worked a little during 2007, earning $3,600 from jobs he held. He does not have enough income to be required to file a federal income tax return, and he is not eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. Since he also has a valid Social Security Number, Tony is eligible to receive an economic stimulus payment of $300. Tony should notify the IRS he is eligible by filing a simple federal income tax return showing the amount of his income from the jobs he worked.

  • Ed and Betty are married.  They both have valid Social Security numbers and neither can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.  They each worked at jobs during parts of 2007, with Ed earning $1,200 and Betty earning $2,700. Individually, neither had enough qualifying income ($3,000 or more) to be eligible for an economic stimulus payment. However, they can combine their earned income for a total of $3,900, which, if they file a simple tax return jointly qualifies them for a $600 economic stimulus payment.
To Claim Your Payment

If you normally don’t file a federal tax return but must file one this year solely to claim your economic stimulus payment, you should file by Oct. 15, 2008, to ensure that you receive the payment this year. Find out where to send yours.

It will generally take a minimum of eight weeks after you file your return to get your stimulus payment.

For Those Who Have Already Filed

Many recipients of the benefits described above may have filed a 2007 tax return reporting at least $3,000 in qualifying income. They do not need to do anything else.

Others may need to amend a tax return that they have already filed to include previously unreported benefits to reach the $3,000 qualifying income level. Adding these benefits on an amended tax return will not increase an individual’s tax liability, but will establish eligibility for the stimulus payment. Taxpayers can use IRS Form 1040X to amend a tax return in order to qualify for the stimulus payment. The amended return requires only a few simple entries. See a sample with instructions. Allow 8-12 weeks of processing time before making any inquiries about the payment.

Free Tax Help Available

Individuals who need to file a return this year to receive a stimulus payment may be able to take advantage of free tax preparation sites nationwide for low-income and elderly taxpayers.

Free File provides free tax preparation software and electronic filing for people who are submitting a return solely to receive their economic stimulus payment

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides help to low- and moderate-income taxpayers. Call 1-800-906-9887 to locate the nearest VITA site.

IRS employees will help prepare Form 1040A returns for low-income workers, retirees, disabled veterans and others at IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. For a list of centers in your state and their hours of operation, Contact My Local Office.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 09-Jan-2014