The IRS has “accidentally” sent $34 million in $1,200 stimulus checks to people living outside the U.S., but now the agency admits that millions have “accidentally” been sent to foreigners who do not qualify for the money.
The IRS is blaming the people who got the checks, though, instead of itself. The taxing agency claims that the people filing from overseas improperly filed their taxes which in turn caused the IRS to include them on the list of people overseas who qualify for the coronavirus relief checks.
However, according to NPR, many of the foreigners who improperly received a stimulus check don’t file U.S. tax returns at all!
“Only U.S. citizens and U.S. ‘resident aliens’ are eligible for stimulus money — ‘resident alien’ is a federal tax classification, and to qualify an individual needs a green card or must have been in the U.S. for a certain amount of time,” NPR noted before revealing a Swedish citizen who received a check in the mail even though she is neither a resident alien nor has lived in the U.S.A.
Worse, this will happen all over again if a second stimulus bill is passed that includes direct payments.
Since Congress passed its coronavirus relief package in a hurry in March, the U.S. government has put no mechanisms in place to prevent these mistakes from happening again. As a result, if a new relief plan with more stimulus payments passes in the final weeks of the Trump administration or during the Biden administration, some of that money is likely to mistakenly end up in mailboxes overseas again.
U.S. Treasury officials said they are “continuing to assess the accuracy of the economic impact payments … and the recovery efforts for any erroneous payments.” In the meantime, they told NPR, the IRS is “relying on individuals to voluntarily return these payments.”
“I think the poor folks in the IRS don’t have the bandwidth to go chasing this,” said Enda Kelleher, a vice president at Sprintax, which does U.S. tax preparation for nonresidents, “but it would be great if they did, because I believe that there’s millions of dollars that have gone to people that weren’t entitled to it, or they’re certainly not the intended recipients.”
Unfortunately, millions have been wasted on foreigners in 150 countries and it looks like it will happen again if Congress passes another stimulus package.
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