IRS Rebate Notice Stirs Controversy

Taxpayers are going to get a rebate check in the mail later this summer and into this fall, but that's not all. Tax rebate checks promised to Americans will be preceded by a letter of explanation this summer sent by the Internal Revenue Service.

A draft of the letter reads: "We are pleased to inform you that the United States Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed into law, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, which provides long-term tax relief for all Americans who pay income taxes.

"The new tax law provides immediate tax relief in 2001 and long-term tax relief for the years to come."

The tone of the letter has sparked a controversy in Washington, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has accused the IRS of issuing political propaganda rather than doing its job.

"I guess we now know what the IRS stands for: Improving the Republican Summer," Schumer said Tuesday. "This letter reads more like it was written for a candidate in a campaign rather than a government agency trying to inform the public."

The White House disagreed, and said practicality, not politics is behind the mass mailing.

"This is a government keeping in touch with the taxpayers who pay the bills informing them that they overpaid their bills," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Fleischer said informing taxpayers of what is in store for them will prevent confusion later.

"If they have no reason to know why they're getting the checks," Fleischer said, "it's the IRS's judgment that will light up the phones of the IRS; that taxpayers are going to say, 'Why all of a sudden am I receiving all these checks in the mail?'"

For some Americans though, the letter may be a letdown.  IRS officials said all taxpayers will get the letter but only those who paid income taxes for last year will get checks.  Some taxpayers who paid no income tax but still paid payroll taxes will not receive the rebate check

Fox News' Sharon Kehnemui contributed to this report