MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – FOX10 News is committed to getting the facts about how the government’s response to the coronavirus affects regular people.
Here is investigative reporter Brendan Kirby with Friday’s installment:
QUESTION: Many people have complained about having no one to call at the Internal Revenue Service about their stimulus payments. And now, they finally do, right?
BRENDAN: That’s right, which is going to make a lot of people happy. But don’t get over-excited. This is baby steps.
The IRS this week added 3,500 people to man the telephones for stimulus questions. If you call 800-919-9835, you will get an automated message. After that, you may be connected to a live human.
There is still a good chance you won’t get through. However, there’s at least a possibility you will be able to talk to someone who can answer the most common questions about the stimulus program.
The IRS says it plans to bring back additional workers as “state and local advisories permit.”
And the agency encourages people to use the “Get my Payment” tool and the non-filer portal on the IRS website to check the status of their payments if they haven’t gotten them.
QUESTION: Another common complaint is that adult dependents were cut out of the stimulus. Is there any way they can get the money?
BRENDAN: Congress could pass a new law giving adult dependents a share of a new round of direct payments. Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) has sponsored such legislation.
But even if that does not pass, there is a way to get the $1,200, although it won’t come anytime soon. The adult who is claimed as a dependent can file his own tax return next year, as long as the person who claimed him as a dependent doesn’t do so again.
Some people claim disabled or elderly relatives who have little or no income as dependents. Doing so gives the taxpayer an extra deduction and lowers his taxable income. The stimulus is technically and advance tax credit for 2020.
So that means anyone who does not get it this year can get it next year. So, if you normally claim your elderly mother, she can get $1,200 next year if don’t claim her on your next tax return. But it will require her to file a tax return. And it will raise your taxable income, which will mean your taxes will go up. You will have to crunch the numbers to see which way benefits your household more.
QUESTION: On unemployment, what is the status of teachers who are receiving unemployment?
BRENDAN: There was some uncertainty about how the expanded unemployment would apply to school employees working on a 10-month schedule who have a reasonable expectation of returning for the following school year.
The Alabama Department of Labor now says those laid-off employees cannot keep collecting unemployment through the summer.
The reasoning is that a 10-month employee normally would only be working during the school year. So those people were allowed get unemployment – including the expanded federal $600 a week – when the schools were shut down if they had no job because of the coronavirus. This would apply to substitute teachers and others unable to work remotely.
But when the school year ends – which is basically now – the unemployment benefits will end, as well, unless it was a temporary job that will not be renewed.
QUESTION: Turning the stimulus now, we’ve heard from many people that the IRS has their wrong banking information. Is there any way to fix that?
BRENDAN: The IRS had that “Get my Payment” site. You can still use that to check your status. But if you haven’t updated your banking information by now, it’s probably too late. That’s because the IRS has been sending checks.
Sometimes, people have old bank accounts on file with the IRS. Lots of people who use tax preparation services found their stimulus payments got bounced back because the IRS tried to send the payments to temporary bank accounts that were set up for the regular tax refunds.
The IRS really has not said a whole lot, but the agency this week clarified it. You have to wait for the mail. In most cases, it will be an actual paper check. In a smaller number of cases, the IRS will send a prepaid card. The payment will go to the most recent address on file at the IRS. If you’ve moved recently, make sure you fill out a change-of-address form at the post office.
And remember, within 15 days after the check is supposed to arrive, you will get a letter with instructions on what to do if you never got it.
(If you have a #COVIDINFO question for investigative reporter Brendan Kirby, email him at Brendan.Kirby@fox10tv.com)