Some noncitizens getting coronavirus stimulus checks by mistake

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The IRS has been pretty quick this time in sending out the stimulus checks in comparison to the earlier rounds. Probably due to this, some coronavirus stimulus checks of up to $1,400 are reaching those who don’t qualify for it, including noncitizens.

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Coronavirus stimulus checks to noncitizens?

A report from Nikkei claims that many Japanese citizens who left the U.S. a long time ago, were recipients of the latest coronavirus stimulus checks. Many Japanese citizens took to social media platforms to express their surprise on receiving the U.S. stimulus check.

Similar to the earlier rounds, this third round of stimulus checks of up to $1,400 is based on income claimed on tax returns by U.S. citizens and residents. As per the IRS, noncitizens living outside the U.S. in 2021 are not eligible for the stimulus payment.

The Nikkei report says that the Japanese citizens who lived in the U.S. prior to the social security agreement between the two countries (in October 2005) likely got the stimulus payment.

Before this agreement, the Japanese citizens working in the U.S. were needed to contribute to America's social security program. This is why the IRS still has information on them. The deal with the U.S. in 2005 made it easier for these Japanese citizens to continue receiving social security after returning to Japan.

It is not exactly clear how this mistake happened in sending the stimulus checks to noncitizens. The IRS claims that it verifies the latest tax-filing information. There are chances that these payments are on the basis of the list prepared by the Social Security Administration. The SSA, however, told Nikkei that it prepared separate lists for recipients at home and abroad.

Not the first time

This is not the first time stimulus checks have been sent mistakenly to noncitizens. There were several similar reports at the time of the first stimulus checks as well, which were approved in March of last year.

A report from NPR last year noted that people from as many as 129 countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Nigeria and South Korea, mistakenly received stimulus checks. A government audit found that stimulus checks amounting to about $34 million were sent to overseas addresses by late May 2020.

Late last year, the Treasury Department and IRS even admitted that stimulus checks worth millions of dollars were sent to noncitizens. The agency acknowledged that noncitizens who receive Social Security and other federal benefits might have gotten the checks by mistake. The IRS even warned last time that the same mistake could happen again if Congress passes another large-scale stimulus package.

If you are a noncitizen and got the stimulus check, the IRS requests that you void them and send them back. As of now, it isn’t clear how the IRS plans to trace such stimulus checks.