BOX No stimulus check yet? This might be why
By Bob Freund
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Are you wondering why your own bank account hasn’t been stimulated yet by that extra money coming from Washington, D.C.?
The U.S. Treasury had dispatched almost 45.5 million economic stimulus payments as of May 16, according to federal figures. The first round of electronic payments, or direct deposits, should have tumbled into taxpayers’ accounts by then.
But more than a few taxpayers who expected to be in that first blast of cash have complained that electronic stimulus payments haven’t arrived as scheduled.
And, it winds up, many probably will have to wait for paper checks from Uncle Sam instead of an electronic deposit. The schedule for paper payments from the Internal Revenue Service stretches out to July 11. It is based on the recipient’s Social Security number, as was the first round.
Delivering money to more than 130 million households can be complex.
It’s not so much the payments themselves. Anybody who earned more than $3,000 in 2007 qualifies whether or not he or she normally would pay income taxes.
The problem is getting the payments to taxpayers. For example, the IRS generally uses information in 2007 tax returns to figure the size and destination of the stimulus payments. But the IRS is not going to send the extra payment automatically to the same account used to pay regular income taxes, says Carrie Resch, IRS spokeswoman in Minnesota.
One reason is that the government’s internal systems for collecting income taxes and for making payments to taxpayers don’t "talk to each other," Resch said. In short, taxpayers must have declared an account for direct deposit on their 2007 returns to receive electronic delivery. That requirement also could have held up payments to some taxpayers who filed returns early; the stimulus program wasn’t authorized until February.
Another "how" problem involves fees deducted from electronic refunds, which often is a convenience of tax preparation software. The problem here is that the software company routes its transactions through a third-party bank to collect the fees. So the government has that bank’s account number rather than the taxpayer’s, a report in USA Today said.
People caught up in those situations will receive paper checks in the mail instead of direct deposits. Delivery will take a few weeks longer.
The IRS also has solved the problem of refunds being deposited in Individual Retirement Accounts, which carry penalties for withdrawals made before retirement age. The IRS will allow people to retrieve their economic stimulus payments without penalties.
After all, the whole point of the economic stimulus payments is to move more money into the economy.
We asked a few people on the street about their plans for the economic stimulus checks. We asked: Have you received your stimulus check yet? What do you plan to do with it?
Reggie Thompson, Rochester: "I (haven’t) got mine yet. I’m going to save mine — I’m not going to give it right back to them. I’m all right with my bills, so I’m going to put it in the bank."
Jim Stoppel, Rochester: "I haven’t gotten it yet. I’m going to get caught up on some bills."
Don Carlson, Plainview: "I haven’t received it yet. I’ll use it for debt reduction probably, but I’m not entirely sure. Maybe some sheetrock — home improvement."
Bonnie Ragan, Rochester: "I’ll put it in the bank. I don’t really have anything I want to spend it on ... maybe I’ll use it to go to Vegas."
Eric Kovacevic, Rochester: "I haven’t gotten mine. I’ll spend it on bills probably."
Sara Lutz, Rochester: "If I get one I’ll use it to help my family. We’ve got some bills I could use it on."
For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
Main IRS site has information about stimulus payments. It’s http://www.irs.gov. Specific information is at: http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=177937,00.html