A national executive department and its revenue agency accidentally sent federal assistance to more than 1 million dead individuals during the deadly Asian pandemic, a report to Congress said.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the Department of the Treasury and the IRS paid nearly $1.4 billion of stimulus checks to deceased Americans during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Virus crisis.
GAO revealed the Treasury and IRS have no intention of recovering the large amount even though the usual protocol requires the responsible authority to request for the taxpayer money to be returned.
“Treasury and the IRS sent almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion to deceased individuals … according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, as of April 30, 2020,” the COVID-19 Opportunities to Improve Federal Response and Recovery Efforts Report said. “If a payment was issued to a deceased or incarcerated individual, the total amount should be returned. However, IRS does not currently plan to take additional steps to notify ineligible recipients on how to return payments.”
The IRS has agreed to GAO’s recommendation to try to find economic ways to contact ineligible check recipients and provide steps explaining how to return the amount.
“Without which, ineligible recipients who would otherwise want to return the payments may be unaware how to do so,” the report said.
The incorrectly paid checks represent nearly 0.7 percent of the total $269.3 billion paid under the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Eligible residents each received a one-off payment of $1,200 provided they earned less than $75,000 a year. Higher income earners received smaller payments up to incomes of $99,000 at which point no check was provided.
The IRS has experienced legal barriers to denying payments to those who failed to submit a tax return for the previous financial year.
“The agency should exercise discretion provided for in the CARES Act to apply the same set of processing rules to recipients who had filed a 2018 return but not yet a 2019 return,” the report said. “IRS officials said on the basis of this determination they did not exclude decedents in their programming requirements.”
GAO asked Congress to grant the department access to death registry records to help prevent further incorrect payments from being sent, especially if the Trump administration announces a second round of stimulus checks later in the year.
“[The] IRS has access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records but Treasury and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which distribute payments, do not,” the report said. “GAO recommends that Congress provide Treasury with access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records, and require that Treasury consistently use it, to help reduce similar types of improper payments.”