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$1.4B in stimulus checks sent to dead people, report shows

Government Accountability Office shows IRS didn’t check death records
IRS demands families return stimulus checks sent to dead relatives
Posted at 1:05 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 13:49:11-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A new Government Accountability Office report released Thursday criticizes the federal government for sending out $1.4 billion in stimulus payments to dead people.

It’s a problem Call 6 Investigates uncovered in mid-May, as Hoosiers received economic impact payments for deceased relates.

PREVIOUS | Beech Grove man gets stimulus check for dead mother

The independent watchdog report says the Treasury and IRS sent almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion to deceased individuals.

“IRS announced that if a payment was issued to a deceased or incarcerated individual, the total amount should be returned,” read the report. “However, the IRS does not currently plan to take additional steps to notify ineligible recipients on how to return payments.”

The GAO is an independent investigative agency that reports its findings to Congress

The agency found that the IRS failed to access death records maintained by the Social Security Administration before sending out the payments.

“Typically, IRS uses third-party data, such as the death records maintained by the SSA to detect and prevent erroneous and fraudulent tax refund claims,” read the report. “However, Treasury and IRS did not use the death records to stop payments to deceased individuals for the first three batches of payments because of the legal interpretation under which IRS was operating.”

J. Tilden, of Beech Grove, was surprised when he got a $1,200 paper check in the mail for his mother, Lillian.

Tilden showed us Lillian’s death certificate, which shows she died on Jan. 12, 2018 at the age of 73.

"So I was surprised and immediately thought about how this was potentially something that was a fraud," Tilden said. "I just thought this is crazy. I can't believe I am getting a check for this particular situation when she's been dead and gone for two years."

Tilden is not alone.

"I posted it to Facebook and actually had several people tell me that they knew others who had been in the same situations,” Tilden said. “So I'm thinking this is a problem, not a one-off situation."

Tilden contacted Call 6 Investigates and asked us to look into it.

Anyone who gets a check for someone who died should return the check to the IRS, and write “void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.

“Payment made to someone who died before receipt of the Payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions in the Q&A about repayments,” read the IRS website. “Return the entire Payment unless the Payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the Payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the Payment made on account of the decedent. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.”

Here's the mailing address to send back a check if you live in Indiana:

Kansas City Refund Inquiry Unit333 W Pershing RdMail Stop 6800, N-2Kansas City, MO 64108

Tilden just wants others to be aware this can happen.

"Thanks for doing the story because I think it's important that people need to know what to do with the checks,” Tilden said. “It's not something they should be taking advantage of."

The IRS says if the payment was a paper check:

  • Write "Void" in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  • Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location.
  • Don't staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
  • Include a note stating the reason for returning the check.

The IRS says if the payment was a paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit:

  • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the EIP.
  • Write on the check/money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write 2020EIP and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.
  • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the EIP.