WASHINGTON (AP) – Nearly 1.1 million payments of coronavirus totaling about $ 1.4 billion went to kill, a government watchdog reported Thursday.
More than 130 million so-called economic impact payments were sent to taxpayers as part of the $ 2.4 trillion corona virus aid package identified in March. The Government Accountability Office, Congress’s audit arm, cited the number of erroneous payments to deceased taxpayers in its report on government programs.
Although the government has asked survivors to return the money, it is not clear that they should do so.
The errors were mainly caused by a delay in reporting data about who died – a decline that tax experts believe is almost inevitable.
The revelation of more than $ 1 billion in taxpayers’ money has been wrongly paid out on the side of the government’s massive aid program that most ordinary Americans are most familiar with. It follows that several large restaurant chains and other publicly traded companies had received emergency loans under the $ 670 billion program for the country’s small businesses in difficulty.
“GAO found that more than $ 1 trillion in tax money has already been imposed – including more than $ 1 billion in deceased persons – with little transparency about how that money is spent,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement.
The IRS has not used death records to prevent payments to deceased persons for the first three batches of payments because of the legal interpretation under which the agency operated, the GAO report says.
The IRS asked for money back in May from survivors of the deceased taxpayers. Some legal experts have said that the government may not have the legal authority to demand restitution.
Former taxpayer Lawyer Nina Olson has said that nothing in the law prohibits payments from going to the deceased. There is also nothing in the law that obliges people to repay the payments. And she notes that the language used on the IRS website does not say that returning the payments is required by law.
“We’re starting with these two sound bites and working backwards,” said Olson, who now heads the taxpayers’ nonprofit center.
The exemption payments have been made to taxpayers based on the information submitted on their 2019 or 2018 taxes. But it is considered a discount on 2020 taxes. The government used the previous tax forms to accelerate payments to the public to offset some of the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic.
But some people who filed these taxes may no longer be alive. Those payments are sent to an heir or executor of their estate. If the payment is based on a final tax return that was completed after their death, then a bursary check could even mean that the person died next to their name.
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