The Treasury Department would not comment on how many dead people were sent stimulus payments.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act, signed into law March 27, made cash rebates of up to $1,200 — technically, an advance 2020 tax credit — available to 150 million Americans.
But in a rush to get money to Americans experiencing the economic fallout, many payments went to people who had died since the beginning of 2018. Dozens of readers have reached out to ask why deceased spouses, parents and siblings have received $1,200 stimulus checks or direct deposits to bank accounts kept open to settle estates.
The Treasury Department authorized the IRS to send the first wave of stimulus payments to people who received refunds on tax returns filed in 2018 or 2019. The agency already had bank account information to deliver those payments electronically.
“I received a check made out to my mother who passed away in June 2018,” one Maryland reader, who asked that his name not be disclosed, said in an email to The Washington Post. “She would be 101 if she was alive today. The IRS and Treasury Department know that she was deceased because the check was made out to her noting ‘DECD’ next to her name.”
In the case of a couple who filed a joint return, the IRS says the surviving spouse only “needs to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent.” For example, a couple with an adjusted gross income of $150,000 or less would have qualified for a $2,400 payment. The surviving spouse would need to return $1,200 to the IRS.
The agency also issued guidance for nonresident aliens and qualifying resident aliens receiving a stimulus payment.
While millions of people, including many low-income Americans, Social Security recipients and veterans, are still waiting on their money, the IRS has also been sending stimulus funding to foreign nationals not living in the United States. A British woman received a $1,200 direct deposit into her bank account even though she hasn’t lived and worked in the United States since 2018.
Under the Cares Act, U.S. citizens, permanent residents and qualifying resident aliens are eligible for stimulus payments if their adjusted gross income falls under the limits. A person who is a nonresident alien in 2020 is not eligible for a payment, the IRS said.
With the update, the IRS has also clarified that a person who is a qualifying resident alien with a valid Social Security number is eligible for a stimulus payment only if he or she qualified for this status in 2020 and could not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer for 2020. “Aliens who received a Payment but are not qualifying resident aliens for 2020 should return the payment,” the IRS said.
A payment made to someone who is incarcerated also needs to be returned. However, in the case of a joint return where one spouse is incarcerated, only the portion sent to the incarcerated person has to be sent back to the IRS. The new guidance appeared on irs.gov on a page titled “Economic Impact Payment Information Center.”
Under the answer to question “41” are instructions on how to return stimulus money received as a paper check or direct deposit.
For a stimulus payment received as a check but not cashed, the IRS says to write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check, and mail it to a specific location, based on the state or country.