In 2008, the Economic Stimulus Act was put into place in order to avoid an economic recession in the United States. As part of the act, tax-paying Americans were to be sent IRS stimulus checks — money sent to taxpayers that they had been instructed by President George W. Bush to spend immediately in order to stimulate the economy. The checks were essentially tax rebates and varied in value depending on how much a certain taxpayer earned the previous fiscal year.
As the year began, economists began to paint a bleak picture for the future of the U.S. economy, citing recession fears and a housing mortgage crisis. In order to head such a recession off at the pass, Congress passed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, which would, among other things, send each individual taxpayer in the United States a tax rebate checks. It was signed into law by President Bush in mid-February, and Americans began receiving the money shortly thereafter. The checks were distributed according to Social Security numbers and would be delivered to Americans throughout the course of the year.
Individuals were eligible to receive IRS stimulus checks valued at the minimum of $300 U.S. Dollars (USD) and not exceeding $600 USD. Married couples would receive a rebate of no less than $600 USD if filing jointly, and not to exceed $1,200 USD. These rebates, according to the IRS, would not affect 2008 tax returns. While the effects of the stimulus did provide some benefit, the United States faced a growing economic crisis toward the end of the year.
In an effort to prevent illegal aliens from receiving stimulus checks, an amendment was added to the act to prevent rebates from going to any residents with an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number. This meant illegal aliens would not receive a rebate, but it also meant that overseas military families would not receive one either. U.S. citizens could amend their returns to file separately, but the benefit would not outweigh the change because dependent claims would be less when filing separately.