The lottery always says “You’ve Got to Play to Win”. Well, in Washington the stimulus version of that is “You’ve Got to File to Collect”.

For millions of seniors who wouldn’t normally file a tax return, this year will have to be different if they want to receive the $300 to $600 in economic stimulus now available to them. The IRS has begun its outreach campaign and will work with the Social Security Administration to get the word to seniors. Here is an audio link to yesterday’s IRS briefing on economic stimulus payments.

The IRS recommends low-income seniors living primarily on Social Security use IRS Form 1040 or 1040A. For those with at least $3,000 in qualifying income, meaning not just wages but also Social Security and veterans’ benefits (but not SSI), they’ll need to report those benefits on Line 20a on the 1040 or Line 14a on Form 1040A.

Now, seniors who have already filed a return reporting less than $3,000 in qualifying income may want to file an amended return to reflect their Social Security benefits, in order to be eligible for the rebate. Amended returns should be filed on Form 1040X.

Need help? The IRS’s Volunteer Assistance Programs are located in neighborhood centers and even shopping malls. You can call 1-800-906-9887 to find locations near you. The IRS also has a program called Tax Counseling for the Elderly at 1-800-829-1040.