Almost 3,000 in Rowan County fail to file 2007 tax returns properly

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
Almost 3,000 people in Rowan County who are eligible to receive an economic stimulus check failed to either file a 2007 tax return or complete the simplified version of a 1040A tax form with the Internal Revenue Service to get it.
Sandra Wilkes, director of the Rowan County Department of Social Services, told board members Tuesday night that a representative of the IRS office in Charlotte reported that 2,943 county residents failed to file the appropriate forms. With a minimum amount of $300 due each person, this means $882,900 was not claimed by eligible residents.
“That would have been a huge amount of money coming to our county and going back into the local economy,” she said.
Of the total not completing forms to receive the stimulus checks, Wilkes said 1,948 are over the age of 65.
Anyone who has not filed the appropriate form has until Oct. 15 to do so and claim the money, she said. After talking with the IRS representative, Wilkes said she is contacting other agencies to help schedule times at locations senior citizens go to regularly for volunteers to help them fill out the tax forms.
One of those places might be Rowan Helping Ministries, she said. “I know hundreds of people are going there to get food and clothing and all of that.”
Wilkes said the IRS representative agreed to train any volunteers willing to help eligible residents with the forms. “We’re really excited about being part of this,” she said.
Jim Sides, who represents the Rowan County commissioners on the board, suggested that Wilkes contact Rick Eldridge, executive director of the Rufty-Homes Senior Center, about the volunteers who are already helping seniors file their taxes. They probably assist 1,600 to 1,800 people a year, he said.
Wilkes said she also plans to check into having volunteers stationed at the county’s eight nutrition sites for seniors. It’s important that people know that the only way they’re going to get an economic stimulus check is to fill out the forms, she said.
Board member Lillian Morgan also suggested scheduling volunteers to help people with the forms at the various YMCA sites in the county
Wilkes said times volunteers are offering assistance could be advertised on television, radio and in the newspaper.
Though the IRS representative was willing to help get people to file the forms, Wilkes said she only expected about 3 percent of the eligible residents to respond.
“If we help one,” Sides said, “it’s worth the effort. I’m sure we will help more than one.”
Board Chairman Dr. Nilous Avery said word of mouth goes a long way in getting people to sign up for the economic stimulus checks.
Nancy Brandt, program administrator for the department’s Service Support, said the push to get eligible people signed up to receive the checks came from the executive branch.
Wilkes gave board members copies of a chart reflecting totals of eligible Rowan Countians who didn’t fill out the form according to zip codes. Salisbury had the highest number with 1,792 followed by China Grove with 278 , Rockwell with 206 and Spencer with 119.
Other totals by zip code were: Cleveland, 140; Landis, 116; Woodleaf, 70; Gold Hill, 58; Mt. Ulla, 48; East Spencer and Granite Quarry, 42; and Faith, 32.
Vice Chairman Carl Ford noted that the Rowan residents who live in Kannapolis were not included on the chart. They might bring the total to over $1 million, he said.
As of June, the IRS has identified 5.2 million retirees and veterans’ beneficiaries who potentially are eligible for the stimulus payments. Later this summer, the agency will send them a special letter that explains stimulus payment eligibility and how to claim it. The letter will include a sample tax form and an actual tax form that people can complete and mail to the IRS. This will be the second special mailing to reach the older taxpayers.