Md. officials trying to stimulate tax returns

August 12, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Thousands of Tri-State residents -- including more than 2,500 in Washington County -- won't get federal refund checks unless they file tax returns within the next two months.

Officials at various levels of government are publicizing the Oct. 15 deadline, trying to reach people who normally wouldn't need to file a return.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is mailing reminders and sample tax forms.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., has taped a public service announcement for radio and TV.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and two groups put out a news release.

The Washington County Commission on Aging is offering to assist people with their tax returns.

As of the end of July, the commission had helped about 375 people file so they could get refund checks, Deputy Director Hannah Cramer said.

Cramer said some people have been concerned that receiving a refund check might count as income and affect their eligibility for financial assistance programs, such as Section 8 housing.


However, the refund money won't affect eligibility, she said.

The refunds, known as "stimulus checks," are at least $300 and as much as $600 for individuals. For joint filers, the range is $600 to $1,200.

Families could receive an additional $300 for each qualifying child.

Of the roughly 310,000 Marylanders who could file returns and receive refunds, about 97,000, or 31 percent, hadn't as of mid-June, according to the IRS.

Washington County had 2,557 of those potential remaining filers.

In West Virginia, Berkeley County had 1,903, the most among the three Eastern Panhandle counties.

Franklin County, Pa., had 1,566.

"With the price of everything from a gallon of gas to a gallon of milk on the rise, folks, now more than ever, should take advantage of the millions of dollars in available federal relief," Franchot said in a news release.

The news release says that about two-thirds of the remaining potential filers are at least 65.

People who receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits might not normally need to file a tax return, but they do to get a refund, Cramer said.

Cramer said the Commission on Aging has held eight sessions for people who want to learn more about the stimulus checks and want help filing their returns.

Two more sessions are scheduled in Hagerstown -- Tuesday, Aug. 26, at the Commission on Aging's office at 140 W. Franklin St. and Friday, Sept. 12, at the Girls Inc. senior center at 626 Washington Ave.

Potential tax returns - how to

People with at least $3,000 of qualifying income in 2007 must have filed a tax return by Oct. 15, 2008, to receive a federal government refund check. That includes income from Social Security benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits and veterans' disability compensation.

The Washington County Commission on Aging has scheduled two more sessions to help people file their returns:

-- Aug. 26 at Commission on Aging office, 140 W. Franklin St., fourth floor, Hagerstown, from 10 a.m. to noon

-- Sept. 12 at Girls Inc. senior center, 626 Washington Ave., Hagerstown, from 10 a.m. to noon.

People need to bring: tax form 1040A (or one will be provided), proof of income and Social Security card.

Call the commission at 301-790-0275, ext. 209, for more information.

The IRS answers questions about the refund at its Web site, Click on "Rebate -- It's Not Too Late."

Potential tax returns

As of June 19, about 31 percent of the Marylanders eligible to get a federal refund check hadn't filed a required tax return, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

The local breakdown by county of those who are eligible to file but haven't is:

Washington, 2,557

Berkeley, 1,903

Jefferson, 908

Morgan, 335

Franklin, 1,566

Fulton , 237

The breakdown within Washington County:

Hagerstown, 1,691

Boonsboro, 168

Cascade, 18

Cavetown, fewer than 10

Clear Spring, 87

Fairplay, 14

Funkstown, 21

Hancock, 93

Keedysville, 55

Maugansville, 32

Sharpsburg, 58

Smithsburg, 110

Williamsport, 188

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