• The IRS has sent out more than than $207 billion in coronavirus relief payments to individual taxpayers
  • Some of these checks were sent to dead taxpayers
  • The IRS hasn't issued instructions as to how money sent to dead taxpayers can be returned 

Families of some deceased Americans that were sent $1,200 coronavirus relief payments say they can't return the checks despite wanting to because the IRS doesn't have a system in place that allows them to send the money back.

One of these confused persons is Teresa Wilmot, 71, of Illinois who lost her partner two months ago. She said there was a coronavirus relief payment sent to his account last month. Wilmot immediately sought to return it to the federal government. She's been trying without success to find online IRS guidance on how to send the money back.

"I went online to the address on the letter and looked for a long time trying to find some way that I could first send the payment back. And I couldn't find that," she told NPR. "So I look for a way to contact somebody at the IRS or the Treasury or whatever to return the payment. And I couldn't find that."

Wilmot's problem, and those of many others, hasn't gone unnoticed. Mark Everson, who served as IRS commissioner from 2003 to 2007, said Americans in this situation should rely on official guidance from, which isn't available, however.

There are also reports the problem might be more widespread than believed after it was found some Americans that died more than two years ago did receive coronavirus relief payments. All this has caused confusion that's left well-meaning Americans in the dark about what to do.

Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told NPR, "There's mass confusion. There's been no official guidance as to how, in this instance, people should return the money that was received for their loved ones."

The IRS' response to this furor was to announce on Wednesday dead people aren't eligible for coronavirus stimulus payments and telling survivors how they can return the money. The Treasury Department has also confirmed all payments sent to deceased people must be returned to the IRS.

“Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent,” instructed the IRS on its website.

The IRS made no mention of any penalties for failure to comply.

The IRS has paid more than $207 billion in coronavirus relief payments to individual taxpayers over the past few weeks.

The IRS has just published an update on PPP loan forgiveness.
The IRS has just published an update on PPP loan forgiveness. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images