• Last modified 1190 days ago (Jan. 13, 2021)


IRS thinks she's dead, no tax return or stimulus check

Staff writer

A few months ago, Lisa Smith got an unpleasant surprise when she tried to file her tax return. The Internal Revenue Service no longer thinks she is alive.

Smith, who asked that her real name not be used, was shocked when the agency rejected her return with a notice that the account was locked because, according to their records, it belonged to someone who died.

Government agencies have shuttered their offices in response to COVID-19, so Smith has spent hours on the phone trying to be restored to the land of the living.

“Normally you go to the social security office and you show them ID’s and they fix it. And I can’t do that because they’re all closed,” she said, adding that she missed out economic impact payments in spring.

“Because of that, I haven’t gotten any stimulus checks. It’s a sore subject with me.”

When her return was rejected in July, IRS representatives told Smith to mail it in, which she did.

At the end of October, she received a letter informing her that the IRS considered her as dead. It instructed her to get in touch with the Social Security Administration.

About 6,000 people each year are mistakenly placed on SSA’s master list of the deceased, according to an audit by the agency’s office of the inspector general.

Julie Wondra, a certified public accountant with Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball, said people often are listed by mistake when someone with a similar name passes away.

“If there is an initial different … social security often marks that wrong person’s name,” she said.

Reaching out to SSA usually fixes the problem, but calls to the agency got Smith nowhere.

“They said ‘we don’t have you listed as deceased. That’s only the IRS,’ ” Smith said. “I said ‘Are you kidding me? Well somebody help me fix this.’ I can talk to people on the phone but they can’t fix anything.”

Smith says her information “got messed up somewhere in between,” social security and the IRS.

Wondra said she understood Smith’s frustrations with government agencies. It’s hard to get anyone on the phone. Callers who manage to reach a person often are placed on hold only to be disconnected, she said.

“It is not a good time to deal with the IRS right now,” she said.

The IRS instructed Smith to file her tax return by mail again — along with copies of her driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card, a recent utility bill with her address, and the notice she received from the agency.

Smith plans to do so as soon as she can get her driver’s license, which unfortunately expired, renewed sometime next month. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the county treasurer’s office is requiring the public to make appointments for license renewals.

The office already is booked several months in advance, county treasurer Jeannine Bateman said.

“I called to make mine (appointment) in December and it’s in February,” Smith said.

Wondra said the only good news she can offer Smith is that when she is able to file a return, she will become eligible for stimulus funding.

“If she is able to file a 2020 tax return reconciliation, those that do not get a payment will have it credited on their tax return,” she said.

Last modified Jan. 13, 2021