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Filing mom's tax return

I was a good daughter this week.

OK, I like to think I'm a good daughter every week, except for maybe those few days after Christmas when everybody's had just about enough family togetherness. But I made up for that bit of grumpiness this week when I helped my mom stake her claim to an economic stimulus rebate check.

As I mentioned in an earlier post previewing the rebates (here), my mother usually doesn't have to file a tax return since she's one of a dwindling breed: retirees who rely almost entirely on Social Security benefits. But, as I also mentioned in that same post, she's just who Dubya is looking for to jump start the economy -- a shopoholic.

Apparently a lot of Senators have moms like mine. Thanks to the amendment by that legislative body, certain retirement plan recipients and lower-income workers now will get the advance stimulus credit (that's the rebate's official name).

And I guarantee that my mom will gladly spend all of her $300.

But she and others in her situation -- folks who typically don't file a return -- need to make sure they get a form into the IRS this year. It's the only way they'll get the money.

So I completed my mother's 1040A last night and shot it off to her in the mail today, complete with a stamped envelope addressed to the correct Internal Revenue Service Center. Now all she has to do is sign it, mail it and wait a couple of months to buy, among other things, a new pair of shoes. 

Tax_tip_icon_pencil_point Filing for dollars: If you're one of the lucky ones who usually doesn't have to file a return, or you know someone in that situation, and you (or they) are eligible for a stimulus check, here's what you should do.

First, check out the FAQs, both the IRS' list and this one I did for Bankrate, to make sure you qualify.

If you do, then it's form filling out time.

Any earned income you have goes on line 7 of either the 1040 or 1040A, or line 1 of the 1040EZ.

Folks who have rebate-eligible Social Security or Railroad Retirement income can't use the EZ form. They should file either the 1040A or long 1040, depending on whether they have other tax considerations like certain credits.

After picking the proper form, report your benefits on either Line 20a of Form 1040 or Line 14a of the Form 1040A, specifically:

  • Social Security Benefits: You'll find the amount to report on your Form 1099-SSA, which you should have received by late January or early February. If you don't have 1099, the IRS says you can estimate your annual Social Security benefit by taking your monthly benefit and multiplying it by the number of months during the year you received benefits. Remember, though, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment.
  • Railroad Retirement Benefits: These payments will be on your Form 1099-RRB. Again, you should have received this statement weeks ago.
  • Veterans’ Disability compensation, pension or Survivors' Benefits: The sum of these payments that you got from the Department of Veterans Affairs last year also count. People are allowed to estimate their annual benefit as noted in the Social Security section above.

You'll note that the designated lines on the 1040 and 1040A are for Social Security benefits. But for rebate purposes, the IRS says to also use them for any qualifying Railroad Retirement or veterans' benefits.

And if you are filing simply to make sure the IRS knows you're eligible for the $300 check later this year, write "Stimulus Payment" atop your form. Personally, I like red ink.

Sample forms and added info: You can check out this sample Form 1040A that the IRS has provided to give you an idea of where the entries go. You'll notice by the highlighting that the agency is recommending you directly deposit your rebate. That way you won't have to worry about the check getting lost or making an extra trip to the bank.

More information on filing and the stimulus payments for Social Security and Veterans Benefits can be found at this special IRS page.

If your folks are older and aren't tax geeks, may I suggest you make sure they know they need to file. And you might want to lend a hand. Trust me, they'll appreciate your help in getting the paperwork done.

Although my mom probably won't admit it, I know when she gets that Treasury Department check in May, she'll be happier to see it than the Mother's Day card I'll be sending around that same time!

Don't worry, Mum. I'm not offended. I totally understand and am just glad I could be of help.


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