my friends told me that the IRS is deducting the stimulus check money from your 08 return! I thought it was free money! And now we have to give it back?
Deep breaths. You don’t have to give it back.
Here’s the confusion… The last set of stimulus checks in 2001 were advances against credits on the 2002 returns. That meant that you did have to “give it back” when you filed in 2002. When the new stimulus package for 2008 was announced, many folks assumed that it would work the same way as the last. CNN even reported it that way initially. But these rebate checks are different.
I’ve taken a peek at the 2008 form 1040 and instructions and it confirmed my earlier report. The “Recovery Rebate Credit” is clearly marked as a credit available for those who did not receive a rebate check in 2008. You do not claim the credit if you have already received your check in the proper amount – and as a result, your 2008 taxes are not affected.
Let me say that one more time, with feeling: if you received your full rebate check in 2008, your 2008 taxes will not be affected.
Don’t be scared by the word “credit” – it’s really just a technical way of making adjustments for folks who might not have received a check in 2008 or if income from 2007 resulted in a smaller check than a taxpayer was really entitled. In other words, the credit can only help, not hurt you, at this point. If you’ve received your check, cashed it and spent it (as the government hopes you have), you’re fine. You don’t have to give anything back with respect to your rebate. I can’t vouch for the rest of your return – that’s on you! 😉
By the way, this is my second most popular question so far in 2009 (#1 is when are we getting a second stimulus check?).