IRS explains how nonfilers can receive economic impact payments

Individuals not required to file a return can use a tool on the IRS website or file a special 2019 return.
By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.

The IRS provided procedures for taxpayers who are not otherwise required to file a federal tax return to file returns to receive economic impact payments provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136. Eligible individuals can receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, and $500 for each qualifying child.

Eligible individuals who wish to file a federal income tax return only to receive allowed economic impact payments may do so under a simplified procedure. These individuals are encouraged to use the "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here" tool on the IRS website. The instructions for the simplified filing method contain line-by-line guidance and require, if applicable, the individual to provide information about any dependents who may qualify for the additional $500 payment.

A second procedure is for taxpayers who have zero adjusted gross income (AGI) and want to file electronically to also file a state or local return, for which some tax preparation software requires a federal AGI amount. Despite having no AGI, a "zero AGI filer" for these purposes must enter $1 amounts for taxable interest, total income, and AGI on the return.

These alternative returns under either procedure must be filed by Oct. 15, 2020, so the IRS can make the payments before the end of 2020 as required under the CARES Act. Both procedures require signatures under penalties of perjury. 

Also, under either procedure, as with all recipients of an economic impact payment, an eligible individual must not be a nonresident alien or dependent of another taxpayer and must provide a Social Security number that is valid for employment (valid SSN). If the individual files a joint return, the individual must also provide the spouse's valid SSN, unless one of the joint return filers was a member of the U.S. armed forces at any time during 2019 and at least one of the spouses provides a valid SSN. A valid SSN (or adoption taxpayer identification number) must also be provided for any qualifying child for whom the $500 payment is claimed.

  • Rev. Proc. 2020-28

— By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D., a JofA senior editor.

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