What should you do if a stimulus check was issued to a dead person? On May 6, the IRS added new language to its FAQ page for Economic Impact Payments stating that people who have died are not eligible for payments. The notice read:
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 instructions in the Q&A about repayments. 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.
How do you return a stimulus payment to the IRS?
On May 11, the IRS issued instructions on how someone should return an Economic Impact Payment:
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 are the IRS mailing addresses to use based on the state:
Nina Olson, executive director of the Center for Taxpayer Rights, noted to AARP that the IRS position was different in 2008, when the government distributed stimulus payments during the Great Recession. Back then, some deceased taxpayers also received payments, but the IRS didn’t make an effort to get the money returned.
While returning a stimulus payment sent to the dead was not mandated by the CARES Act, one ethics expert says it’s the right thing to do. “Most if not all of those people who received a check intended for a dead relative know that it was an error,” said Jeffrey Seglin, senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University, to AARP. “The stimulus money was not intended to go to dead people. Ethically, the right thing would be to not cash the check.”