Whitehouse explains rebates

By:  Jim Baron
Woonsocket Call

With representatives of the Internal Revenue Service and AARP in tow, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse showed up at the Leon Mathieu Senior Center Monday to school seniors about how to make sure they receive the rebate that’s part of the stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush last month.

The most important step, those filling the community room to capacity were told, is that they have to file a tax return this year, even if they owe no taxes, in order to be eligible for the approximately $300 rebate.

Seniors whose income is made up mostly of Social Security benefits often do not file tax returns, because their deductions exceed their income and there is no reason to do so. But this year, the federal government is using tax returns to identify people in line for the rebate.

“Don’t be afraid that you don’t have a W2 form or you have nothing to attach to the return,” counseled Michael Kinsley of the IRS, “it’s totally irrelevant. The amount of money you receive a month, times 12, brings it over as a zero for taxable income, we keypunch it in, and it will generate a notice that you are about to get a rebate check.”

If you already filed a tax return, Kinsley pointed out, “there’s nothing to worry about. We’re trying to reach a specific audience here that has to file an informational return to generate the rebate. Some of you have pensions and other sources of income and have already filed a return, you are all set. You’ll get a notice next week” that a rebate is on the way.

A woman who identified herself only as Wanda from Pawtucket said she found the forum informational. Asked if she knew about the need to file a return to get a rebate, she said, “No, I didn’t. That was something new. I’m waiting to see about my taxes.”

Kinsley and Robert Jackson, regional coordinator for the AARP’s Tax Aide program, stayed after the session for one-on-one counseling with people who had questions about their tax returns.

“Today was first and foremost about getting out the word to Rhode Island seniors, particularly those who don’t file a tax return, that they still have a $300 rebate coming to them,” Whitehouse said after the session.

“We want to make sure that nobody misses this chance. This is an effort to spread the word about the eligibility so people file a very simple form you need to file to claim the rebate.”

The purpose of the rebates, Whitehouse said, is economic stimulus. “We actually fought to have a lot of people- including the unemployed.”