THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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I have been breaking in my new waffle maker, which is a dream come true. It’s almost idiot proof. And the waffles are truly wonderful. Couldn’t be better except if, at the same time, it cooked Canadian bacon.
My goal here is to make getting your coronavirus tax rebates, enacted into US tax law a couple of days ago, deposited into your bank account as fast as possible – ready to be spent on whatever you like.
First, let’s not get carried away. At most you going to get $2,400, if you are filing jointly with someone, or $1,200, if you are enjoying your waffles alone. I’ll get to the big delicious subject at the end.
The Act providing coronavirus relief payments, technically 2020 recovery rebates, was enacted 27th March. All 883 pages of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act are sitting there for you to chew on. Luckily the bits you will be interested in are straightforward.
Simply put, the rebates are technically for calendar year 2020, but the provisions treat them as an overpayment for 2019, which will be rebated as soon as possible during the current year, 2020. Every eligible individual benefits. This means every US taxpayer, other than a nonresident alien individual. In "American", this means "foreigner". "Green card holders" are covered as well. Individuals who for whatever reason have no income or whose income is not taxable in the normal course, such as Social Security income, are covered.
Thinking simply, like cooking waffles without reading the instructions, payments will be made with checks mailed using the US postal system. The IRS is supposed to notify, again by mail, here to last known address, people within 15 days of sending out payments. The idea is to permit the recipient to raise a hand if something has gone wrong. Everyone knows it will be almost impossible to meet this requirement as to Americans abroad living in many locations. Written notice to someone living in Istanbul or Addis Ababa or even Braemar is unlikely to arrive in 15 days, pandemic or no pandemic.
To get your payment you need to have put a valid Social Security number on your tax return.
And you need to be on the playing field – you need to be someone who has been filing tax returns.
Skipping the mailing of paper checks which, like waffles without milk, are going to fall flat, electronic transfers will be made the same way as payments of refund amounts. Now you want to pay attention. If you filed a return for 2019 or even 2018 and on it set up Direct Deposit to receive your refund, you literally have it made. Set the dial to light brown, medium brown, or charcoal briquette. The system will automatically pick up your information from your tax returns and send off, electronically, your refund. Monitor the bank account that you nominated.
Yes, the IRS can find your tax returns, read them in a nanosecond, determine your filing status and thus how big a payment you should receive, and fire off the funds.
Now for the rub. For this to work, you have to have filed a return and you have to have used the Direct Deposit method for getting any tax refund. Since Direct Deposit doesn’t work unless you have a US account, golly, you need one of these.
If you have one but haven’t used it for tax refunds, here’s a suggestion; don’t hit me over the head with my waffle iron if this doesn’t come out nice and toasty. Quickly file your 2019 return and choose the Direct Deposit method for handling refunds. Not expecting a refund, like many Americans abroad who wipe out their tax liability with foreign tax credits or ingenious tax accountants? Try filing an all-zeros tax return but still sticking in the information which would permit Direct Deposit: This is things like your bank routing and account number.
Ah! Rats! You don’t have a US bank account. You forgot to plug-in the waffle iron. Here’s a quick workaround you should "get on" right away. You can open quickly and easily, in one online session, a US bank account with the State Department Federal Credit Union. Even though you are not the US Ambassador to the Court of St. James, it’s perfectly proper for you to do this. Look at American Citizens Abroad website page www.americansabroad.org/sdfcu-account. Looking past the dazzling pictures, you’ll find step-by-step instructions. Your entrée – ticket to enter, not main course – to SDFCU is ACA. It’s a little thing but very important, like 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in your batter.
Don’t be a sharpie and try somehow to maneuver around ACA. The important thing – I told you we would get to this – is not the $1,200 or $2,400 rebate/credit. The important thing is pushing, pushing hard, pushing effectively, to get Congress to switch from citizenship-based taxation, which is the cause of your having to file a big fat federal tax return, to residency-based taxation. RBT is the same practice followed by every country on the planet except hard-put-upon Eritrea.
When you’ve figured out coronavirus rebates and how to get them, with an ACA-enabled SDFCU account, click over to the information about enacting RBT. Rebates are a simple waffle. RBT is beef Wellington.