Married members of the military may receive economic stimulus payments this fall, even if their spouses or children don’t have social security numbers, following the newly-enacted HEART Act (Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008). Prior to this new legislation, some members of the military did not receive stimulus payments, or received a reduced amount, due to the absence of an SSN for a spouse or child.
In November, the Treasury will send checks and direct deposits to military families who qualify for these stimulus payments. The IRS estimates that there are more than 10,000 military families who will receive the additional stimulus payments. A specific time frame for the payments will be announced later this year.
"The IRS wants to make it as easy as possible for military families to get the stimulus payments authorized by the new law. People who already have filed don’t need to do anything else to get their money. We’ll do the rest,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We will work as quickly as possible to put these new provisions in place while making sure the rest of the stimulus payment program continues smoothly through the summer and fall."
To get a stimulus payment, eligible taxpayers must file a 2007 tax return. For married couples who have already filed a joint return, no further action is necessary. Generally, married couples qualify for an economic stimulus payment of up to $1,200, plus an additional $300 for each qualifying child younger than 17.
Because of the special challenges involved in making these newly-authorized payments, the IRS is taking the additional step of working with the Department of Defense to ensure that eligible filers get their money.
Originally, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, enacted in February, barred economic-stimulus payments to anyone filing a return who did not have a social security number. Returns using any number issued by the IRS, such as an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) were not eligible. For joint filers, this meant that both spouses must use valid social security numbers.
Those barred by the original law from receiving a stimulus payment included military members filing jointly with spouses who were ineligible to get an SSN. In addition, because they were not eligible for stimulus payments, they could not receive an additional $300 payment for each eligible child.
Married couples filing joint returns who are now eligible for stimulus payments under the new law will receive a notice from the IRS telling them the amount of their payment and the date it will be issued. Payments will be made by check or direct deposit. Those who chose direct deposit for their regular tax refund will typically get their stimulus payment by direct deposit. However, anyone who chose a refund-anticipation loan, had tax-preparation fees deducted from their refund or entered into other refund-related transactions, will get a check, instead.
The payments are based on 2007 income tax returns, including basic returns filed by eligible low-income people, solely to claim a stimulus payment. Those who have not yet filed, including members of the military who received nontaxable combat pay, should do so as soon as possible.