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Rebate checks will start appearing in May

In an effort to help stimulate the economy, many Oregonians will find a special rebate check from the federal government in their mailboxes beginning in May. Depending on a person's eligibility, checks will be for a minimum amount of $300, or $600 for a married couple filing jointly. As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I was pleased to work on the legislation that resulted in the rebate checks. Portions of the plan I advocated for, which were signed into law, will help an additional 20 million seniors, including 450,000 seniors in Oregon, who were not included in the original bill. My hope is that by putting a little extra back into the pockets of Oregon's families, these checks will help meet some of your needs and help support a healthy American economy.

Am I Eligible?

Generally, to qualify for a payment you must have a Social Security number and at least $3,000 of total qualifying income in 2007. Qualifying income includes your Social Security benefits, any wages earned during 2007 and certain Veterans and Railroad Retirement benefits.

What Do I Need to Do?

To receive a payment, you must file a 2007 federal tax return. Seniors, if you receive Social Security benefits and are normally not required to file a tax return, all you need to do is fill out select portions of an IRS Form 1040A. Seniors on Social Security who did not file a tax return for 2006 income should already have received a packet from the IRS with guidance to help you claim your rebate payment. If you are eligible and have filed your tax return for 2007, you do not need to take any extra steps to receive your payment.

How Much am I Getting?

If you are eligible, the minimum rebate payment you will receive is $300 (or $600 for a married couple filing jointly). For more information, visit www.irs.gov or call the IRS stimulus rebate hotline at 1-800-829-1954. You also may use an IRS payment calculator located online at http://www.irs.gov/app/espc/. and #8232;

When Do I Get My Check? and #8232;

Stimulus payment checks to eligible individuals will be issued according to the last two digits of the main tax filer's Social Security number. Starting on May 2, those who filed using the direct deposit option will be among the first to receive their check. Paper checks will be mailed starting on May 16. All checks are scheduled to be mailed by July 11 to eligible taxpayers who filed a tax return by the April 15 deadline. Those who filed a return after April 15 will receive their payment later. However, a tax return must be filed by Oct. 15 in order to receive a stimulus payment this year. For the complete schedule of payments by Social Security number, visit http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=180250,00.html.

Haven't Filed Yet?

If you need help filing your tax return this year, you may qualify for free tax preparation assistance. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides help to low and moderate-income taxpayers. Call 1-800-906-9887 to locate the nearest VITA site.

Protect Yourself from Fraud!

Be aware that identity thieves already are pushing scams involving the stimulus payments. At least one telephone scam is making the rounds using the proposed rebates as bait. Always exercise extreme caution when giving out your personal information.

These rebate checks are a good start, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to help ensure a robust economy. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on legislation to strengthen our economy and on several other important provisions that aim to improve Oregonian's quality of life.

Gordon Smith is a U.S. Senator representing Oregon.