COVID-19 Stimulus Checks: Thousands of Foreigners Sent $1,200 By Accident

Getty The mistake happened because many foreign workers who annually come to the U.S. for seasonal jobs filed their tax forms incorrectly.

Thousands of non-U.S. residents mistakenly received $1,200 checks during the first round of stimulus payments under the coronavirus relief CARES Act, according to NPR.

The accident is a result of foreign workers — who came to the U.S. on temporary work visas for seasonal jobs — incorrectly filing their tax forms, the outlet added. Many of which are now spending their money in their home countries.

Georgia attorney Clayton Cartwright told NPR that non-residents are supposed to file a 1040-NR form, but that some accidentally file a 1040 — commonly used by U.S. taxpayers.

“I would say probably anywhere to a third to a half [of first-time foreign filers] are filing the wrong return,” Cartwright said to the outlet.

He added that online tax services such as Turbo Tax, which is “intended only for U.S. residents,” is likely to make errors in these situations.

NPR reported that one tax preparation firm disclosed that it has clients from “129 countries who mistakenly received stimulus checks, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Nigeria and South Korea.”

It is unclear exactly how much money was sent to the global residents, NPR said.

Here’s what you need to know:


Sprintax Has Amended 5,000 Returns so Far

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The company, which claims to be the only “online system for nonresident federal and state tax returns,” told NPR that it has already amended 5,000 returns for non-residents — “almost 5% of the total federal tax returns it filed last year, according to the company,” NPR wrote.

The outlet added that, “If just 5% of last year’s more than 700,000 student and seasonal workers with F-1 and J-1 visas received a stimulus check in error, that would total $43 million.”

Sprintax Vice President Enda Kelleher explained to NPR that many of the foreign workers did not realize they made a mistake on their returns until they received their stimulus checks this spring.

Now, they’re trying to amend their returns in order to avoid jeopardizing their abilities to return to the U.S.

“We saw a huge number of people contacting us after the first stimulus payment because they said, ‘Hey, I got this check. I never asked for it, I didn’t think I was entitled to it, and how can I correct it?'” he said to NPR.


This is Just the Latest of Coronavirus Relief-Related Mishaps

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The $1,200 stimulus checks sent to the thousands of foreign workers is not the first mishap stemming from coronavirus relief efforts, NPR reported.

The outlet cited the nearly $1.4 billion in stimulus checks that were sent to deceased Americans this past spring.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that, as of April 30 of this year, 1.1 million deceased Americans received stimulus checks.

For the first three batches of payments, the report concluded that the Internal Revenue Service failed to use third-party data to determine if the recipients were still living.  Death records maintained by the Social Security Administration is just one example of a third party.

“As Congress debates another pandemic relief package, it’s considering a second round of payments that would exclude the deceased, but its new bill does not address the problem of $1,200 checks having mistakenly gone to foreign workers in other countries,” NPR added.

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