Top Democrat: Seniors should be able to receive coronavirus checks automatically

Top Democrat: Seniors should be able to receive coronavirus checks automatically
© Greg Nash

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealConservatives urge Trump to take unilateral action to suspend payroll tax collection Treasury to conduct policy review of tax-exempt status for universities after Trump tweets Stimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility MORE (D-Mass.) on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to come up with a way for seniors and other vulnerable groups to get their coronavirus relief checks without having to file a tax return.

Neal said in a statement that he and fellow Democrats on the committee "strongly urge" Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet Overnight Health Care: Trump to take executive action after coronavirus talks collapse | Vaccine official says he'd resign if pressured politically Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul "to find a solution that will allow vulnerable groups to receive these funds automatically."

The coronavirus package that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE signed into law on Friday provides one-time direct payments to Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

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The IRS said in a news release Monday that said that people who do not typically file tax returns will need to file "simple" returns to receive their payments.

"Low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax," the IRS said. The agency added that it will soon be providing people in those groups with information about how to file their 2019 returns.

The legislative text of the coronavirus package allows the IRS, in cases where people haven't filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, to look at their Social Security and railroad retirement benefit statements in order to provide their payments. That portion of the law was not mentioned in the IRS document Monday.

Neal said that he and his colleagues have been flooded with calls from senior citizens who are concerned about whether they will be able to receive their checks. He also noted that centers providing free tax-filing assistance to vulnerable communities are temporarily closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Crucial filing resources, like Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly, are not available to provide assistance due to the COVID-19 crisis," he said.

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Neal also sent a letter on Tuesday to the Free File Alliance — a group of tax-prep companies that participate in the IRS's Free File program — to work with the IRS to provide filing assistance to non-filers who are entitled to a rebate.

"I believe that free tax preparation assistance can go a long way in easing the burden on non-filers who may need to file a return and helping our country during this pandemic," Neal wrote in the letter.

—Updated at 5:46 p.m.