• The IRS and Treasury Department only have a little more than a week left to finish sending out a new stimulus check to millions of Americans, but problems and delays are already being reported.
  • At least 13 million stimulus checks have been sent out to bank accounts that are either inactive or that the customer no longer has access to.
  • This will lead to a delay in receiving the stimulus payment, because the money has to first be returned to the US Treasury.

Sometimes, it’s easy to get the distinct feeling that folks in the government are bad at this whole governing thing, like when you learn that after months of dithering over whether to approve a new stimulus check for millions of Americans, they’re now screwing up the disbursement of peoples’ much-needed COVID relief payments.

After taking too long to approve a new round of money, and then only approving the pitifully low amount of $600 per check, now come reports that the government is causing more needless delays in people receiving their money … by sending out millions of checks to the wrong bank accounts. According to a statement from tax preparation company Jackson Hewitt, the IRS has sent stimulus payments to more than 13 million bank accounts that they shouldn’t have. Some of the bank accounts, for example, might be closed, or the customer might not have access to the account any longer.

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“The IRS has confirmed that processing issues will cause payment delays to many Americans waiting to receive this relief,” reads a statement on the Jackson Hewitt website. “It is estimated that the IRS inadvertently sent payments to over 13 million bank accounts that are no longer open or valid.”

According to a New York Times report, such accounts could include temporary accounts that tax preparation companies sometimes establish for clients so they can receive their tax refund. It’s common for companies like Jackson Hewitt, TurboTax, and others to set up one of these accounts when clients approve having preparation fees deducted from their tax refund. These companies set up the temporary account, take out their fee, and then leave the rest for the client — but the temporary account becomes inactive after that.

The problem is that IRS records might still show such accounts being connected to the taxpayer. And compounding the problem, stimulus payments sent out to such accounts that taxpayers no longer have access to are required to come back to the US Treasury.

You can check and see if this issue applies to you by using the IRS’ Get My Payment tool to see where your payment is being sent to. The $900 billion COVID relief bill that made these new stimulus checks possible also includes a January 15 deadline, at which point the disbursements will stop. If you haven’t received your check by then — for example, because of the issues noted above — you can claim it through your 2020 tax return.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.