Monday, May 4, 2009

Devils ... details: when the government takes back its stimulus payments,

OR: little things the IRS does not try very hard to tell you. points out that many taxpayers--especially retirees--are about to get a rude surprise: they will have to pay part of their stimulus checks back next year:

WASHINGTON - Millions of Americans enjoying their small windfall from President Barack Obama's "Making Work Pay" tax credit are in for an unpleasant surprise next spring.

The government is going to want some of that money back.

The tax credit is supposed to provide up to $400 to individuals and $800 to married couples as part of the massive economic recovery package enacted in February. Most workers started receiving the credit through small increases in their paychecks in the past month.

But new tax withholding tables issued by the IRS could cause millions of taxpayers to get hundreds of dollars more than they are entitled to under the credit, money that will have to be repaid at tax time.

At-risk taxpayers include a broad swath of the public: married couples in which both spouses work; workers with more than one job; retirees who have federal income taxes withheld from their pension payments and Social Security recipients with jobs that provide taxable income.

The Internal Revenue Service acknowledges problems with the withholding tables but has done little to warn average taxpayers.

Some specific examples:

-A single worker with two jobs making $20,000 a year at each job will get a $400 boost in take-home pay at each of them, for a total of $800. That worker, however, is eligible for a maximum credit of $400, so the remaining $400 will have to be paid back at tax time - either through a smaller refund or a payment to the IRS....

- A married couple with a combined income of $50,000 is eligible for an $800 credit. However, if both spouses work and make more than $13,000, the new withholding tables give them each a $600 boost - for a total of $1,200....

- A single college student with a part-time job making $10,000 would get a $400 boost in pay. However, if that student is claimed as a dependent on a parent's tax return, she doesn't qualify for the credit and would have to repay it when she files next year.

Unfortunately, the IRS withholding tables that cause people to receive larger checks than they can keep have only been imperfectly modified, and millions of Americans will end up having to pay back a chunk of their stimulus checks.

Once again, government lives down to my expectations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes Sir, I noticed a small increase in my check along with a note that essentially told me that I wasn't eligible for said small increase, and that they would be asking for it back around tax time. Government in action.

I was, however, impressed that the idiots thought to put a note in along with the paycheck, instead of mailing it separately.