October 11, 2008

Whitehouse Asks IRS to Extend Rebate Filing Deadline

Senator Urges Government to Reach Out to Thousands of Rhode Islanders Who Have Yet to File for Federal Stimulus Checks

Providence, R.I. – With the deadline to claim federal stimulus checks just days away and thousands of Rhode Islanders yet to file, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has urged the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to push the deadline back a month, until November 15, 2008.

“With gas prices near $4 per gallon and the stock market at a five-year low, the $300 stimulus rebate can be crucial to veterans and seniors living off of fixed incomes,” Whitehouse wrote IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman yesterday. “I urge you to give them a little extra time to file for this assistance.”

Under economic stimulus legislation passed in February, the federal government provided rebate checks, starting at $300, to low- and middle-income Americans. During debate over the stimulus plan, Whitehouse urged Senate leaders to include rebates for millions of seniors living on Social Security who would have been ineligible to receive assistance under a proposal negotiated between President Bush and the House of Representatives. More than 138,000 retired Rhode Islanders received Social Security benefits in 2007 with Social Security benefits averaging just $12,956 per year.

The stimulus package that was ultimately passed by Congress and signed into law extended the rebate program to include seniors living on Social Security benefits, and disabled veterans or their survivors. The tax-free rebates were sent automatically to eligible Americans who filed a federal income tax return for 2007. However, many Social Security and VA beneficiaries do not normally file a tax return, and so they must file separate paperwork this year to receive a rebate. The deadline for submitting this paperwork is October 15, 2008.

Whitehouse also pressed the IRS to reach out to people who are eligible for the benefit but have not yet filed for it – nearly 18,000 people in Rhode Island alone, as of September. Stimulus checks yet unclaimed by Rhode Islanders could amount to close to $5.4 million.

“Those numbers suggest that whatever outreach efforts have been undertaken by IRS this year do not seem to be effectively reaching those entitled to payments,” Whitehouse said. “If IRS grants the requested extension, as it should, the agency will have additional time to identify people entitled to payment who have not been sent a check, and determine what additional steps can be taken to ensure that they receive their checks.”


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