IRS Stimulus: Americans Have Turned Away More Than $2 Billion in Payments

by Josh Lanier

While the federal stimulus checks were manna from heaven for many, others turned them down. In fact, 1.2 million Americans have said no to the most recent stimulus checks to the tune of $2 billion.

Former President Donald Trump signed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020. That guaranteed 160 million Americans a check for $1,200 to help stimulate the economy in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But some people said no to the money. More than a million refused to cash their checks or sent them back to the IRS, Newsweek reported Friday.

The uncashed or returned stimulus payments represent less than one percent of the $270 billion sent in the first batch of checks. There have been two more stimulus payments since then. Congress approved a $600 check was approved in December. And President Joe Biden signed a third stimulus package that provided a $1,400 check earlier this year.

Pennsylvania had the highest percentage of checks that weren’t cashed. Vermont, Montana, and Michigan followed. Utah, Texas, and Arizona were the most likely to take the money. Newsweek has a full breakdown on its website.

The IRS spent nearly a year tracking down millions of homeless and rural poor recipients of the CARE Act checks. It also required the Treasury Department to reach out to legal aid clinics and issues information in 35 different languages, the news magazine reported.

“It was slower in the first round, but they got better as they went along and got faster with each round,” Rob Berger, a personal finance columnist for Forbes, told Newsweek.

IRS Praised for Speed in Delivering Stimulus Checks

The IRS had delivered all of the checks by February 2021, a monumental feat considering the operation’s scope.

“Taking the data at face value, it does indicate the IRS did a remarkable job of getting about 160 million checks out the door and doing it in a relatively timely manner, which is not easy when you’re sending them to a lot of people who are not always easy to reach,” says Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at a non-partisan D.C.-based think tank. “Like any operation on this scale, an error rate of one to two percent would not be surprising. This surpasses that.”

Though there were also mistakes. The IRS issued checks to millions of dead people. CNBC says about 1.1 million deceased Americans got a check, costing $1.4 billion. Families of those who people were asked to send the money back. It’s unclear, however, how many did.