February 19, 2008

Whitehouse: New Tax Form Should Help Seniors Claim Rebate

Applauds New, Simpler Form Aimed at Social Security, Veterans Beneficiaries

Washington, D.C. – A simplified tax form released today by the Internal Revenue Service will help Rhode Island seniors take advantage of rebates offered under new economic stimulus legislation, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said.

Under the new law, the federal government will provide rebate checks, starting at $300, to low- and middle-income Americans, including seniors living on Social Security benefits and disabled veterans or their survivors. But Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging who pushed to make sure the bill included benefits for seniors, was concerned that some older Rhode Islanders might be deterred from claiming their rebates because of the legislation’s requirement that everyone seeking a rebate must file a 2007 federal tax return – even if he or she does not owe taxes, as would likely be the case for tens of thousands of Rhode Island seniors.

Today, the IRS announced that seniors will be able to fill out a special version of Form 1040A that makes clear which information they must provide in order to receive a rebate. The agency also posted an extensive “Frequently-Asked Questions” page on its web site, www.irs.gov, including a section specifically aimed at seniors.

“No senior should miss out on this much-needed assistance due to the burdens of filing a tax return,” Whitehouse said. “I’m glad the IRS is taking steps to make this process easier for seniors, and I’ll continue to watch closely to see whether there’s anything more the IRS, or we in Congress, can do to help.”

More than 138,000 Rhode Islanders over the age of 65 received Social Security benefits in 2006, the last year for which data is available, with Social Security benefits averaging just $12,374 per year. Nationwide, 61 percent of seniors who receive Social Security benefits did not pay income taxes in 2006, a technicality that would have left them ineligible to receive aid under an earlier proposal negotiated between President Bush and the House of Representatives.

Whitehouse had urged Senate leaders in a letter last month to include aid to seniors in any legislation aimed at bolstering the nation’s sluggish economy, noting that many Rhode Island seniors are having difficulty making ends meet amidst the high cost of energy, housing, and prescription drugs. “For the thousands of Rhode Island seniors struggling every day just to get by, a little breathing room can make an enormous difference,” he said. The final stimulus bill was signed into law last week.

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