Seniors and Vets: Claim Your Rebates

It's not too late for millions of retirees and disabled veterans who didn't file a tax return to send in their forms and get a stimulus check.

My grandmother is 83 years old and lives on Social Security. I just found out that she hadn't filed a tax return to get her rebate check. Is it too late?

It isn't too late, and it's a good time for everyone to make sure that their elderly relatives have filed a return.

About 5.2 million retirees and disabled veterans still need to file a tax return to receive their rebate checks. That's about one-quarter of the people in that group who are eligible for the stimulus payments but haven't completed the paperwork required to get the money. These people must file a tax return before October 15, 2008, to receive their rebates.

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Most other people automatically received their stimulus payments after filing their tax returns or will get the money soon (see Will My Rebate Check Ever Come? for the schedule). But many retirees and disabled veterans usually don't have to file a tax return because their benefits are not taxable. They have to file a return this year, however, to receive their rebates. Filing a return will not affect their tax liability or eligibility for any other benefits.

People who don't have taxable income or don't normally need to file a tax return will generally receive a rebate of $300 per person ($600 per couple) as long as they have at least $3,000 in qualifying income, such as certain benefits from Social Security, Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement. They will not qualify, however, if they have been claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. See the IRS's Instructions for Low-Income Workers and Recipients of Social Security and Certain Veterans' Benefits and Information for Recipients of Social Security Benefits for details.

These people only need to file a Form 1040A with basic information, including name, address, any dependents, amount of qualifying income and signatures. See Form 1040A and instructions.

The IRS will also be sending a mailing to these 5.2 million people later this summer with instructions for filing the tax return and an actual tax form they can fill out and send in. The government is working with seniors and veterans groups to provide in-person tax preparation seminars at senior housing, Veterans Administration hospitals and assisted-living facilities. Seniors and veterans also can get help through the IRS's 400 local Taxpayer Assistance Centers.

For more information about the rebates -- for retirees as well as everyone else -- see Answers to ALL Your Tax Rebate Questions. You can also use the IRS's Where's My Stimulus Payment? tool to check on the status of your rebate money.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.