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IRS error gave stimulus checks to deceased people. Here's what to do if you got one

Family members who received checks for deceased people are expected to give the money back. Here's what you need to do.

ATLANTA — Stimulus checks intended to help those suffering financially during the pandemic are also going to people who will never use the money.

The Reveal, 11Alive's investigative team, found the Internal Revenue Service sent checks to people who have been dead for years.

While it’s unknown how many checks were sent to dead recipients, it could be in the tens of thousands. The taxpayer-funded stimulus money, was approved by congress in March.

In mid-April, President Trump acknowledged the problem. He says of the billions sent to needy families, the IRS sent less than 1 percent to unintended recipients or were involved in other issues. He says the money must be returned.

Vickie Knight’s late father, Perry, is one of the deceased who got a check. The former metro-Atlanta resident died in 2018. The IRS knew her father was not alive because it indicates he’s deceased right on the check.

“I looked at [the check] probably 15 to 20 minutes and just was thinking, ‘What in the world?’,” Knight told 11Alive. “My greatest concern is that the money is not going to the places and people that it needs to go to.”

RELATED: What can you do if your stimulus check was for the wrong amount?

Credit: WXIA

It happened to Lorna Gentry, too. A check was sent to her late mother, Martha, who passed away about two years ago.

The Druid Hills resident unsuccessfully tried contacting the IRS to return the money, but “It’s like the money is programmed to go out, but not to come back in,” Gentry said.

Here’s why it likely happened. The IRS mailed stimulus checks to people identified in the 2018-2019 tax filings. Tax experts believe the IRS simply did not remove the people who have since died from their tax rolls before processing the stimulus checks.

On May 6, the IRS released new instructions on how to return the money.

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 at the bottom of this story).
  • Don't staple, bend or paper clip the check.
  • Include a note in the envelope 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 at the bottom of this story).
  • 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 in the envelope with the reason for returning the EIP.

If you live in Georgia, mail the check to: Atlanta Refund Inquiry Unit, 4800 Buford Hwy, Mail Stop 112, Chamblee, GA 30341

For a complete list of addresses in other states, go to the IRS website and review the frequently asked question section that reads "More about economic impact payment."

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.  

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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