The seal of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) hangs on a podium during an IRS Criminal Investigation 100th year anniversary event at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, July 1, 2019. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images


An unlikely group counts itself among the recipients of the coronavirus stimulus checks: the dead.

The IRS began distributing $290 billion in direct cash payments within the past week as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus bill. As part of the plan, IRS is sending checks of up to $1,200 per individual and $2,400 per married couple over the past several days to weather the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the agency directed some of the one-time payments to bank accounts of deceased individuals, USA Today reported this week.

It’s not immediately clear how many deceased people received the direct deposits.

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, said Wednesday a friend texted him to say his father, dead since 2018, had just received his $1,200 in stimulus money, according to MarketWatch.

“We’re aware of all the survivor-related questions and we’re still working that issue,” IRS spokesman Eric Smith said. The  Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn’t the first time the federal government has issued stimulus checks to the dead.

More than 71,500 dead Social Security recipients received $250 stimulus payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a 2010 report from the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General. Deceased Social Security recipients got $18 million of the $13 billion set aside for all Social Security recipients in that Obama-era stimulus package.

The snafu isn’t surprising due to the administrative resources at the IRS’ disposal and the speed with which the agency was trying to issue the payments, which hit bank accounts roughly two to three weeks after enactment of the financial-relief package, according to tax experts.

The IRS largely relies on the Social Security Administration for up-to-date death records, said Leonard Burman, co-founder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. The SSA, in turn, gets that information from a number of sources like state death records, family members, financial institutions and others, he said. 

That information could take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to trickle in after someone’s death, Burman said.

“All of those thigns are only available with a lag,” said Burman. “One of the imperatives of the economic stimulus checks was to get the money out quickly.”

Bank accounts of deceased individuals also 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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