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IRS says a certain type of stimulus check will have to be returned

Published May 8th, 2020 12:59PM EDT
Coronavirus stimulus checks
Image: Shutterstock

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  • Reports of deceased individuals receiving coronavirus stimulus checks have been popping up in recent weeks.
  • This week, the IRS updated its website to explain that any Economic Impact Payments sent to people who died before they received the payments need to be returned.
  • The IRS wants people to either send back the stimulus checks or write checks for $1,200 to the US Treasury if the money has already been deposited in a bank account.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

When the US Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March, it seemed inevitable that there would be more than a few bumps in the road as the government attempted to implement all of the policies it had introduced. Some rolled out surprisingly smoothly, such as the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments, but there have been some kinks for the Treasury Department to work out along the way.

For example, in mid-April, one Indiana resident who was expecting $1,700 from the government found $8.2 million in his bank account on a Friday which had promptly disappeared without a trace by Monday. This only appears to have happened once, but another issue has arisen in recent weeks: Deceased Americans are receiving stimulus checks, and in an updated FAQ on its website, the IRS says that they have to send it back.

The Economic Impact Payment Information Center on the Internal Revenue Service website answers a wide variety of questions about the money that is being sent out as part of the CARES Act. It is updated every few days, and on Wednesday, the IRS added the following answer in regards to payment recipients who have died:

A 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. 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.

There’s a lot to unpack here, including the fact that if your spouse passed away before the stimulus payment came in, the IRS expects you to give half of the payment back. Had their significant other passed away just a few days, weeks, or months later, the partner presumably would be allowed to keep the full payment. The language is truly bizarre, and the IRS didn’t say anything about potential consequences for failing to return the payment.

If you do opt to send an Economic Impact Payment back to the IRS, they have provided instructions on their website. If you received a paper check, write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check, mail the check to the appropriate IRS location (which you can find here), and include a note stating why you’re sending it back. If the check was cashed or the payment was a direct deposit, the IRS wants you to write a check or money order payable to “U.S. Treasury” with 2020EIP and the taxpayer identification number of the decedent on it.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.