The rollout of the U.S. coronavirus stimulus package, commonly known as stimulus checks, has been something of a disaster. Millions of people received the extra $1,200 in their bank accounts this week as they expected to, but millions of people who were entitled to the money did not. Now, a number of people are reporting that they received extra money in the name of their deceased relatives.
As reported by NBC News, a number of people across the country have found payments in the accounts of dead parents, spouses, and other relatives. The relatives have reported being confused about why they have received the money and unsure what to do with it. Others have said they found it upsetting to be reminded of their loved ones in this way.
It’s not clear whether the relatives should keep the money or return it, although some have expressed a desire to return it on principle. A spokesperson for the Treasury told NBC that guidance about what people should do with incorrect payments will be “forthcoming.” It seems likely that asking people to return the payments would be more of an administrative hassle than it is worth, and a source told NBC that the heirs or spouses will likely be able to keep the money.
This is just one of the issues that have gone wrong with the stimulus checks. The rollout of the checks has been botched due to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) use of outdated technology, and with the IRS’s budget slashed, there has been no money to upgrade it. There have also been problems with communication, with people unsure if and when they would be receiving payments.
Another factor that has thrown a wrench into the works of the stimulus check rollout is the use of third party tax services such as TurboTax or H&R Black for tax filing. Many of the people who did not receive their checks used these services, which collect tax refunds on their users’ behalf, so the IRS did not necessarily have the direct deposit information for them.
In most developed nations, citizens file taxes directly with their governments for free, but in the U.S. citizens usually end up paying to file their taxes using a third party service.
This combination of issues has lead to a messy and inconsistent rollout, and the IRS has directed people to its website for more information about their payment status.