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IRS releases guidance on returning erroneously received stimulus checks

IRS releases guidance on returning erroneously received stimulus checks
Ines Zemelman, EA
10 May 2020

Stimulus Payment Received in Error

With millions of stimulus payments already being sent out, the IRS confirmed on May 6 that some economic impact payments were sent by mistake. Payments were sent in error to nonresident aliens, incarcerated people, and deceased taxpayers. The IRS is now asking those recipients, or their family members, to return the money.

If you believe you received a stimulus payment in error - first see if you fit any of the situations below..

  1. Your income in 2020 exceeds the income eligibility threshold - there is no error. No need to pay back; the IRS deems taxpayers eligible based on 2018 or 2019 income levels.
  2. You gave up US citizenship or renounced a green card in 2019. The IRS issued a stimulus payment based on the 2018 tax return information - that payment is an error. You are supposed to pay it back.
  3. A check was issued in the name of a single deceased person - the check was sent in error. It cannot be cashed out anyway as it would constitute federal fraud. The IRS asks the relatives to return the check.
  4. A check was issued to a married couple where one of the spouses passed away. The payment amount is higher than it should be for one surviving spouse. The IRS requests the excess amount to be paid back (see the instructions below for the cashed out check).
  5. A check was issued to a married couple that divorce or separated. The spouse who received the check (or direct deposit to the bank account) is not required to return the excess payment to the IRS. However, it would be fair and ethically right to reach out to ex-spouse and offer them their share. Otherwise, the ex-spouse will not get anything.

The IRS hasn't outlined any consequences for not returning a stimulus check it sent by mistake. 

The newly released guidance says you "should" return the money "immediately," but there is no official mandate.

How to send back the check

  1. Write "void" in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  2. Write a note to include with the check explaining why it is being returned.
  3. Mail the check and the note to the IRS location based on the state you live in. The list of addresses is available on the IRS website.

If you received an erroneous direct deposit, or you already cashed the paper check 

  1. Submit a personal check or money order to the IRS address corresponding to your state — list in the link above.
  2. Make it payable to "U.S. Treasury" and write "2020EIP" along with the recipient's Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification (TIN) number.
  3. Write a note to include with the check explaining why it's being returned.

Where to return an uncashed stimulus check

To return a stimulus check received in error, the address to which to send a check to depends on what state you are living in. 

Expats send checks to Austin, TX. For US-resident taxpayers, the address depends on the state, which we outline in the table below

 Expats mail to austin 
  • If you are an expat living abroad, please mail the check and the note to Austin Internal Revenue Service 3651 S Interregional Hwy 35 Austin, TX 78741
  • If you live in the US, please see the table below.
ADdress to mail
If you live in... Address
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont Andover Internal Revenue Service
310 Lowell St.
Andover, MA 01810
Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia Atlanta Internal Revenue Service
4800 Buford Hwy
Chamblee, GA 30341
Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas Austin Internal Revenue Service
3651 S Interregional Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741
New York Brookhaven Internal Revenue Service
1040 Waverly Ave.  
Holtsville, NY 11742
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming Fresno Internal Revenue Service
5045 E Butler Avenue
Fresno, CA 93888
Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia Kansas City Internal Revenue Service
333 W Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
Alabama, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee Memphis Internal Revenue Service
5333 Getwell Rd.
Memphis, TN 38118
District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island Philadelphia Internal Revenue Service
2970 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
A foreign country, U.S. possession or territory*, or use an APO or FPO address, or file Form 2555 or 4563, or are a dual-status alien. Austin Internal Revenue Service
3651 S Interregional Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741
Ines Zemelman, EA
founder of Taxes for Expats