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Dead People Are Getting Stimulus Payments

Relatives of the deceased are asking: Will the government want it back?
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2020 3:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – The dead may tell no tales, but they do get stimulus checks—and media reports are cropping up about relatives wondering what to do with the windfall. "Obviously, she does not need stimulus right now," Jeanne Siracuse tells NBC News about her mother, who received $1,200 despite her death last August. "It's not something she would have wanted to happen. She was very conservative and would not want to see that kind of waste." With similar anecdotes (like this and this) spreading online, a US government source tells NBC that relatives of the dead will be allowed to keep the money. And anyway, the government would be unable to recoup those funds.

"Are we going to audit the closed estates and heirs for $1,200?" says Ryan Ellis, a tax preparer and lobbyist. "I don't think so." Another tax expert, Chye-Ching Huang, says the same thing happened in 2008, and relatives of the deceased were allowed to keep the payments. "This is exactly what we would have expected as the IRS is following their consistent procedures in the case of a taxpayer death," she says. Forbes reports that this time, the IRS based payments on 2018 or 2019 tax returns, so people who died in 2018 are receiving payments. Seems the Social Security Administration has a Death Master File to record the dead, but the IRS either didn't use the file or had an outdated version when issuing the stimulus. (Read more stimulus funds stories.)

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