COVID-19 Stimulus Check: People in Prison Must Return Money

On Wednesday, the IRS updated its Frequently Asked Questions page, writing that payments sent to people in jail, prison, or other correctional facilities should be returned.

In response to the question, “Does someone who is incarcerated qualify for the Payment?” the website now reads, “No. A Payment made to someone who is incarcerated should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions about repayments. A person is incarcerated if he or she is described in one or more of clauses (i) through (v) of Section 202(x)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 402(x)(1)(A)(i) through (v)). For a Payment made with respect to a joint return where only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the Payment made on account of the incarcerated spouse. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.”

Those With an Incarcerated Spouse Must Send That Individual’s Portion Back

Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, individuals who meet certain income thresholds are eligible to receive $1,200. Those who are married and make less than $150,000 annually qualify for a $2,400 stimulus payment. However, the IRS is now saying that if your spouse is incarcerated, you must send that person’s portion ($1,200) back.

How can an incarcerated person send the money back?

If the payment received was a paper check, then they must do the following, per the IRS website:
1. Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
2. Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
3. Do not staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
4. Include a note stating the reason for returning the check.

If the check has already been cashed or was issued through direct deposit:
1. Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
2. Write on the check/money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write 2020EIP, and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.
3. Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the EIP.

Who Is Considered Incarcerated?

On their website, the IRS references the Social Security Act to define an incarcerated individual.

At this time, that definition includes someone in jail, prison, or a correctional facility; someone found guilty but insane or found not guilty by reason of insanity; someone found incompetent to stand trial; someone confined to an institution on a finding of being a sexual predator; someone fleeing to avoid prosecution or confinement after conviction; or someone on violation probation or parole.

The IRS has also said that payments sent to the dead must be returned.

According to the Washington Post, the Treasury Department has not revealed how many dead people were sent stimulus checks. Similarly to those with an incarcerated spouse, an individual whose partner is deceased only needs to return their portion of the check.

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