The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent nearly 1.1 million checks totaling nearly $1.4 billion to dead people, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said. On top of that, the government knew it was doing it.
Under the CARES Act, stimulus checks of up to $1,200 were sent to over 150 million Americans. But due to the rush to get the checks out, many were sent to those who had filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019, but who had since died.
This news could thwart plans for a second stimulus check, seeing that the government did not efficiently handle the first round of checks.
How did the error occur?
While the IRS has access to current death records, the Treasury Department and the Bureau of Fiscal Service do not, which led to the error.
Although the IRS knew that this was a possibility, IRS counsel made the decision that they did not have legal authority to deny a payment to someone who had filed a tax return, even if the person was dead. According to people who received paper checks for those who were deceased, the code “DECD” was even indicated after the person’s name.
Some people even reported that they tried to return the checks but they were unable to. After realizing the problem, the IRS ceased sending checks to the deceased on the fourth batch of checks.
The GAO’s role is oversight over the government’s coronavirus response, including the recent spike in coronavirus cases in many states.
Checks were also sent to foreign nationals no longer living in the U.S., as well as incarcerated individuals.
What you can do
If you receive a stimulus payment for someone who is deceased or otherwise not eligible, you should return it to the government. If your spouse died, you only need to return a portion of the check. For paper checks, write VOID on the check before returning. For more information and instructions on how to return checks, visit the irs.gov Economic Impact Payment Information Center.