Have you received a plain envelope containing a Visa debit card from Money Network Financial? A few readers have shown me their letters, and I must say, the first question that comes to mind is whether it’s legit. After all, my readers didn’t apply for a debit card -- and who is Money Network Financial?
One of the readers received an enclosure that said:
“Enclosed is your Economic Impact Payment Card. This prepaid debit card is being sent to you on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Treasury in place of a paper check. This card contains the money you are receiving as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).”
Then it offers additional information on the economic impact payments (EIPs) at IRS.gov/EIP, and it refers to instructions to activate the card at EIPCard.com.
Yes, this happens to be an official card. But be aware that the IRS is cautioning about scams.
Here is what I’d like you to do: Visit the IRS’ Economic Impact Payment Information Center at tinyurl.com/tbhar5r.
There you will find a series of questions and answers. Look at Q48. It turns out the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service hired Money Network Financial LLC to do the card servicing; the Visa card is issued by the Treasury’s financial agent, MetaBank, N.A.
The card arrives in the mail in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” Visa is stamped on the front of the card; the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank, N.A.
Since security is on everyone’s mind, the IRS will follow the card with a letter to explain the payment -- and instructions on what to do if you did not receive it. If a taxpayer is unsure that the letter is legitimate, the IRS urges taxpayers to visit IRS.gov first to protect against scam artists.
As to scams, if you get a call, text, email or a social media contact asking for personal or bank account information related to economic impact payments, that’s a scammer. The IRS also cautions you to “watch out for emails with attachments or links claiming to have special information about economic impact payments or refunds.” Again, those are scammers, not the IRS.
What if you don’t want a debit card? In the answer to Q49, the IRS says that you can go online to EIPcard.com or use the Money Network Mobile App to transfer the debit card balance to your bank account. You will need your bank’s routing and account numbers.
Want to double-check your payment amount? Review Q24, “How do I calculate my Economic Impact Payment?” What if you received less than you think you should have? Perhaps you were due qualifying child payments that were not included. According to the answer to Q32, you will be able to claim the additional amount when you file your 2020 tax return. Make sure to keep the notice you received regarding your economic impact payment with your 2020 tax records (the notices are mailed to each recipient’s last known address within 15 days after the payment is made).
Will an economic impact payment increase your taxable income? Q34 confirms that the answer is “no.” The payment is not considered part of your gross income. Therefore, you will not include it on your federal income tax return or pay income tax on it. The payment will not reduce your refund or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 federal income tax return, and it will not affect your income for purposes of determining eligibility for federal government assistance.
What if you don’t want your EIP? You can reject it; no hard feelings. In Q64, you’ll see that you can send the card back if you want to return the money to the IRS and NOT have the payment reissued.
For a quick video that covers the topics we’ve discussed in today’s column, go to vimeo.com/430839995.
Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant Investment Advisers Inc. of Stamford, Connecticut) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments (email@example.com). Please visit www.juliejason.com.
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