Reaction to my recent column about the economic-stimulus payments ran the gamut.
Several people said I erred in the amount of the check. I used the maximum $600 per person but neglected to point out caveats that may lower the amount you receive. Too many, in fact, to list here. But they boil down to how much you make in a year.
For example, if you are single with adjusted gross income of more than $75,000, you'll get less than the $600.
The IRS will send a letter telling you how it calculated your payment. I got mine last week and it was very clear.
Other people called with specific questions about how their personal situations might affect the amount of their check. One woman said her husband died in March but the IRS sent her a check that contained payments for both of them. Did she have to give his share back?
Good question and I found a clue to the answer on the IRS' Web sit where it prominently lists "Rebate Payment Questions."
But I'm not the taxman and I don't even play one on TV, so I advised her to call the IRS' toll-free number (1-800-829-1040).
She called me back to say that she was told she does get to keep that money because her husband was alive during the 2007 tax filing year.
Finally, one reader took issue with my calling this "found" money. His point was that the government isn't really giving us anything, it's simply taking less.
And he called it what is: a massive redistribution scheme to funnel money from those who will not receive checks (because they make too much money) to those who will get checks.
He's right, and that's exactly the intention: Get billions of dollars into the hands of people more likely to spend it than to save it.
Will the average American do that? Probably. After all, the warm weather is here, the kids are getting out of school. Buying new patio furniture sure sounds a lot more fun than paying off that credit-card balance from the last Christmas shopping season.