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It’s time to file, even if you usually don’t

Income tax deadline April 15

April 3, 2008

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April 15 is nearly here, and you know what that means: You've got to get moving if you haven't already filed your tax return.

This year, it's especially important to file if you are eligible for an economic stimulus payment. If you don't file, you don't get paid, and that goes even for folks who don't typically file.

"For millions of Americans, filing a tax return is not routine," said IRS spokesman Jim Dupree. "Their income is either too low or not taxable. Super Saturday is one way the IRS and its partners are working to ensure everyone eligible receives a stimulus payment."

For people who have no legal requirement to file a tax return but must in order to receive a 2008 economic stimulus payment, the IRS has made arrangements for a special Free File Alliance. Go to the IRS Web site (www.irs.gov) and search for "Free File - Economic Stimulus Payment."

You can review the listed companies, approved by the IRS, that are offering to file returns for free for qualified people whose adjusted gross income is $54,000 or less.

Payment schedule

The IRS said it will begin sending more than 130 million economic stimulus payments starting May 2. The initial round of payments will be completed by early July.

People will be getting payments of up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples) plus additional payments of $300 for each qualifying child. The stimulus payments phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 or more, and at $150,000 or more for married couples filing jointly.

How soon you get your money will be determined by the last two-digits of your Social Security number and whether you opt for a paper check or direct deposit into your bank account.

Be aware if you owe back taxes or have certain other debts such as child support. All or some part of the stimulus payment may be snatched to satisfy those debts. If that happens, the IRS says the taxpayer will get a letter explaining the offset.

Here's how the IRS will distribute the stimulus payments if you elect direct deposit:

If the last two digits of your Social Security number are 00 through 20, your payment will be sent May 2; 21 through 75, May 9; and 76 through 99, May 16.

If you opt for a paper check, here's the schedule, again based on the last two digits of your Social Security number:

¢ 00 through 09, May 16

¢ 10 through 18, May 23

¢ 19 through 25, May 30

¢ 26 through 38, June 6

¢ 39 through 51, June 13

¢ 52 through 63, June 20

¢ 64 through 75, June 27

¢ 76 through 87, July 4

¢ 88 through 99, July 11

If you're married and file a joint return, the first Social Security number listed will determine the mail-out time, according to the IRS. And, of course, the IRS says some tax returns may take longer to process and this can affect the payment schedule.

Come on, you knew they had to give themselves some leeway.

If you file your 2007 return after April 15, you will still get your economic stimulus payment but the IRS says to add about two weeks to the date listed for your Social Security number. The last drop-dead date to file your return is Oct. 15 in order to receive a stimulus payment this year.

Who qualifies

To qualify for the stimulus check, you have to have any combination of earned income from money you earn on a job, nontaxable combat pay or certain benefits from Social Security, Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement. Generally, people must have a valid Social Security number, have at least $3,000 in qualified income and not be a dependent or eligible to be a dependent on someone else's return.

Not sure how much you're going to get? Go to the IRS Web site and use the economic stimulus payment calculator.

If you're in a rush to get your payment, file electronically and have your refund or stimulus payment directly deposited into your bank account. And for heaven's sake, don't pay to get a refund anticipation loan. This short-term loan backed by your refund is a waste of money that could probably be used to pay a bill.

If you have any last minute tax questions about your return or the economic stimulus payment, join me online at 11 a.m. CDT April 10 at www.washingtonpost.com. IRS spokesman Dupree will be available to answer your questions.

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