Acknowledging that stimulus payments were erroneously sent to many Americans who had died, on Wednesday the U.S. Treasury Department said families should return the money to the IRS.
Several families contacted NBC Bay Area, saying they received payments for parents or spouses who have died within the last few years. They didn't know what to do with the money; could they keep it, or did they have to send it back?
Mrs. W. in San Jose, who asked us to not use her name, told us she was frustrated by the situation.
"I received a $1,200 stimulus check for my deceased mother, who passed in January, 2019, simply because they apparently failed to delete dead people from the check process," she said. "I have no idea what to do with it. Her tax returns and fiduciary returns for 2019, clearly said 'final and deceased.' I am writing because this has probably happened all over the country."
NBC Bay Area asked the IRS for clarification at the time, but it didn't have an answer. As recently as Tuesday, an IRS spokesperson said the agency was still waiting for guidance from the Treasury Department.
On Wednesday, responding to inquiries from NBC Bay Area and other news media, a Treasury Department spokesperson offered the following guidance:
Q. Does someone who has died qualify for the Payment?
No. A Payment made to someone who died before receipt of the Payment should be returned to the IRS by following the (below) instructions. 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.
Q. Does someone who is a resident alien qualify for the Payment?
A person who is a non-resident alien in 2020 is not eligible for the Payment. A person who is a qualifying resident alien with a valid SSN is eligible for the Payment only if he or she is a qualifying resident alien 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 to the IRS by following these instructions [link to new FAQ about repayments].
Q. Does someone who is incarcerated qualify for the Payment?
No. A Payment made to someone who is incarcerated should be returned to the IRS by following these instructions. A person is incarcerated if he or she is described in one or more of clauses (i) through (v) of Section 202(x)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 402(x)(1)(A)(i) through (v)). For a Payment made with respect to a joint return where only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the Payment made on account of the incarcerated spouse. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.
Q. What should I do to return an Economic Impact Payment (EIP)?
You should return the payment as described below.
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 listed below.
- Don't staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
- Include a note stating the reason for returning the check.
If the payment was a paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit:
- Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
- 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.
For your paper check, here is the IRS mailing addresses to use for California:
Fresno Refund Inquiry Unit
5045 E Butler Avenue
Mail Stop B2007
Fresno, CA 93888