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The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports an error that resulted in thousands of non-Americans mistakingly receiving coronavirus relief checks earlier this year. The agency now accepts responsibility for the mistake, according to an NPR report on Nov. 30, 2020.
Initially, when the reports first surfaced, the IRS claimed recipients were to blame. They alleged that many non-citizens received the $1,200 stimulus payments due to incorrect tax filings that made them appear to be citizens.
But, as NPR reports, many who were erroneously sent a stimulus payment did not file United States tax returns. One person is 78-year-old Susanne Wigforss; she is a Swedish citizen residing in Stockholm. She was surprised when the check arrived in July, followed by a letter from the White House and signed by the president.
The letter addressed her as a fellow American. Wigforss recalls being surprised and could not understand why the IRS was sending her an economic impact payment. Moreover, she does not file income taxes in the United States, but she does receive a small Social Security payment from having worked in California for several years.
While the IRS distributed checks to Social Security recipients and do not file taxes, only U.S. citizens and U.S. resident aliens are eligible for the stimulus payment. Wigforss does not fit either of these categories.
The government does not know how much money was sent to non-Americans overseas. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that $34 million had been sent to people who filed taxes with a foreign return address — as of May.
That amount includes United States citizens living overseas. But that $34 million does not include foreigners living in the states who are ineligible, and it does not include non-Americans living abroad.
When Congress quickly passed the COVID-19 relief package in March, the IRS has no mechanisms in place for preventing this from happening again if another stimulus is approved.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
NPR: IRS Says Its Own Error Sent $1,200 Stimulus Checks To Non-Americans Overseas; by Sacha Pfeiffer
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