Stimulus Outreach Needed?

While others are looking towards the next economic stimulus package, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sends word that some 5 million payments have yet to be claimed. Claiming the payments requires filing an income tax return, but some otherwise eligible individuals — notably seniors and disabled veterans — have total incomes too low to require filing a return under normal circumstances. It’s hard not to think of low-income pensioners as having a high marginal utility of $600. They have until October 15 to file.

Now, 5 million returns might not seem like a lot relative to the 134 million individual income tax returns filed in 2005 (the latest year in the Statistics of Income data). However, according to IRS data graciously provided by the CBPP, it’s 28% of the population of Social Security and VA beneficiaries needing to file. The geographical variations are pretty interesting, too:

Data courtesy of CBPP. Not shown: Alaska and Hawaii (in the top 35-39 rate group).

Somehow I don’t think it’s easier to be on a low fixed income in the Northeast or West Coast states than it is in Iowa or South Dakota. Perhaps it’s harder to reach the target population among the urban poor? More outreach appears to be in order.