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Fistfuls of IRS cash for tax payers - Residents urged to apply for their ‘stimulus package’

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The government is standing by with a giant checkbook, pen in hand. Instead of taking our cash, this year the IRS actually wants to give us money, in the form of tax rebates. “They’re not going to throw the money out of a helicopter on 18th Avenue. You need to do something,” said Rep. Vito Fossella during a recent visit to the Narrows Senior Center in Bensonhurst. That “something” is file a tax return. This is standard practice, of course, for most working income-earners. However, there are millions of retirees, disabled veterans and low-wage workers who are exempt from filing a tax return and normally do not do so. But this year they must file a return if they wish to receive the stimulus payment. “If you don’t file, you don’t get the money,” Fossella told the Bensonhurst group during his visit. Fossella planned the outreach event because he was concerned some area seniors and vets may miss out on their rebate checks. All Americans who received at least $3000 during 2007 from Social Security, veteran’s benefits, earned income, or a combination of the above are eligible for a rebate of at least $300. Filing a tax return doesn’t make Social Security benefits taxable, but it does make sure you receive the rebate. Tax returns must be filed by October 15, 2008. Several local sites are offering free tax help. Low and moderate income workers, including veterans, can get help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site at Our Lady of Angels Rectory, 7320 4th Avenue, every Friday between 10am and 2pm. Call 1-800-906-9887 for other VITA sites. The AARP’s Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program provides free tax help to people 60 and older. Assistance is available at the St. Patrick’s Rectory, 9511 4th Avenue on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Regina Pacis Youth Center, 1258 65th Street on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at Washington Mutual, 1901 86th Street on Tuesdays from 10am to 2pm. For other TCE sites, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit www.aarp.org. Most other working taxpayers will receive $600 or $1200 for a married couple. If you have dependent children under 16, you receive an additional $300 per child. The rebate will “phase out” for single taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of more than $75,000 and married couples over $150,000. The rebate is reduced by $50 for every $1000 you earn above the income limit. The IRS will begin depositing rebates on May 2 for those who chose direct deposit for their 2007 tax return. Paper checks will be mailed out starting May 16 through until July, 2008. About 130 million households are expected to receive the rebates. The government hopes the rebates will jumpstart the country’s lagging economy. For more information about the rebates or to calculate your payment, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

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