BATON ROUGE, La. (BRProud) — The Internal Revenue Service released new guidance Wednesday stipulating that dead people, and their descendants, must return stimulus checks sent by the federal government in recent weeks. The new guidelines quickly became a trending conversation online.
“A payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions about repayments.”Internal Revenue Service, released May 6, 2020
The checks are based on 2018 and 2019 tax returns and some of those individuals have died since filing the returns. Now, the IRS wants that money returned.
The notice comes after reports that the deceased were sent $1,200 stimulus payments by mail and direct deposit. Critics have said the payments are evidence of government mismanagement and the IRS won’t be able to reclaim all the payments that it’s sent out in error.
The government does not have real-time information on when people die and just as the IRS scrambled to send out millions of checks, the coronavirus had claimed more than 65,000 American lives, according to John Hopkins University.
People who are incarcerated and “non resident alien(s)” are also not eligible for the payments, the IRS said.
Similar to the deceased, the IRS had no way of cross-checking whether a person who filed a past tax return was now behind bars.
A similar scenario played out under then-President Obama’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act, when 17,348 prisoners mistakenly received $4.3 million in economic recovery payments (ERPs), according to a 2010 Social Security Administration Inspector General report.
A person who the government declares a “non-resident alient” in 2020 is furthermore not eligible for a stimulus payment. A person who is a qualifying resident alien with a valid Social Security number is eligible for a stimulus check only if he or she is a qualifying resident alien in 2020 and could not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer for 2020.
President Donald Trump and Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin have also said they want the payments returned.
Instructions for returning a check:
- For a paper check, write “VOID” on the back where you would normally write your signature. Then, mail the check to the Treasury Department with a note stating why you’re sending the money back.
- If you’ve already cashed the check or the funds were sent as a direct deposit, you can send a personal check payable to the U.S. Treasury along with an explanation.