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Believe it or not, some people are being forced to return their $1,400 stimulus checks

Published Apr 30th, 2021 2:59PM EDT
Stimulus check update
Image: Roman Lipovskiy/Adobe

Of all the stimulus check updates we’ve shared since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, this is probably the one that will come as a legitimate shock. It might even be bewildering upon the first pass.

The two stimulus checks that were distributed by the federal government to millions of taxpayers last year — for $1,200 and then another for $600, followed by the third $1,400 stimulus check made possible by last month’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law — were meant to both stimulate the economy as well as provide a financial lifeline for people in desperate straits as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis. That crisis is still acute enough, that Biden’s stimulus legislation last month also took the added step of packing in a number of other ways that millions of taxpayers will benefit outside of stimulus checks, such as via a major expansion of the federal child tax credit that Biden now wants to expand again through 2025. But now we also come to the stimulus check update that seems so extraordinary to write: Some people, believe it or not, have actually been returning their stimulus check to the government. Read on to learn who should take this unusual step of giving back their stimulus money.

According to the IRS rules, as noted by Kiplinger, if a stimulus check was issued to a married couple and one of the spouses has died, that check must be returned. You’ll need to include a letter explaining the situation so that the IRS can re-issue a payment in the living spouse’s name.

This is not an insignificant number of people that we’re talking about. The AARP looked into this matter, and It found that after the CARES Act stimulus legislation was passed in the spring of 2020, the IRS sent out stimulus checks to 1.1 million dead people, with those payments totaling $1.4 billion. “A payment made to someone who died before they received the payment should be returned to the IRS,” the IRS said on its website. “Return the entire payment unless it was made to joint filers and one spouse is still living. In that case, return half the payment, but not more than $1,200.”

“If someone can’t deposit a check because it was issued to both spouses and one spouse has died, the individual should return the check. Once the IRS receives and processes the returned payment, an Economic Impact Payment will be reissued to the surviving spouse.”

Beyond this, there are also other scenarios that can be envisioned where someone might want or need to send their stimulus check back to the government. One example is someone who just … doesn’t want or need the check. Maybe because they’re too well-off and don’t want to accept the money. Of course, in this scenario, you could also just do something good with it, like donate it to charity. At any rate, if this includes you and If you want to send the stimulus check back to the IRS, send your debit card (if you were issued one of the pre-loaded stimulus debit cards) along with an explanation noting that you don’t want the money, to Money Network Cardholder Services, 2900 Westside Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30004.

If you were sent, instead, a paper check from the IRS, then you’ll need to void the check and send it back to one of the IRS addresses listed at the bottom of this page. And if you want to send the stimulus check back after the IRS direct-deposited the money into your bank account, you’ll need to make out a check payable to the US Treasury, include “Third EIP” and your taxpayer ID number somewhere on the check, and include a brief explanation of why you’re sending it back to one of those IRS office addresses listed at the link above.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.