Details of the "economic stimulus" plan

So you've heard by now that you might be getting a check from the Federal Government. Something about it wanting consumers to spend, spend, spend to give our economy a little boost. Some are calling this a "tax rebate," while others are calling it a stipend. Nothing is final yet, but this is how it looks like things will pan out:

  • About $150 billion will be sent out to families, with a typical family getting $300 to $1,200.

  • Anyone who worked last year would get $300, even if they didn't earn enough to pay any income taxes.

  • If a worker did pay income taxes, the check would be $600. A married couple with both people working would get $1,200.

  • Any family with children would receive an additional $300 per child.

A single person making $75,000 or a married couple making $150,000 or more won't get a dime. Congratulations, you're financing another handout to those who are less financially successful than you.

Some opponents of the current plan say a "tax rebate" should only be available for those who actually paid income taxes, and I tend to agree. If this is really about refunding tax money to stimulate the economy, then the rebates should go to those who actually paid the income taxes to start with. Those on the opposite side of the argument say low-income and middle-income people are more likely to immediately spend the money, which is what our economy needs. (Apparently we don't need saving or investing, which is what higher income people are likely to do with the money.)

Experts say it's likely that this plan will be implemented without much fighting between politicians. There are some proposals, however, to offer extended unemployment benefits and food stamps. Those proposals are up in the air and it's questionable whether or not they'll be implemented.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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