ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Paper stimulus checks continue to arrive in mailboxes all over St. Louis and some of them are creating confusion because the recipients are dead. So do you keep the check or return it?
A lot of people received conflicting answers, and the IRS's edict this week complicated things more as residents went to the mailbox to discover checks for family members that died in 2019 and 2018.
"I was kind of shocked and surprised I had $2,400 instead of $1,200," Carrie of north St. Louis County said.
She couldn't believe it when she saw her stimulus check. Part of the payment was for her husband Edward. He died in August of last year.
"I was worried because I didn't want to cash it for fear the IRS might reclaim it," Carrie said.
She said her tax preparer told her to keep it.
But the IRS said Wednesday any money to a person who died prior to receiving it should be returned. The agency said if the money arrived in a paper check, they want citizens to write VOID on the back and put it in the mail. If the money was directly deposited, they want them to submit a personal check or money order for the amount issued to the deceased person.
Thursday, accountants who spoke to News 4 said there is no reason for someone to mail the money back, especially since there is no clear guidance for what to do if the money has been spent already.
Carrie says the extra money was a huge help and it's already spent, based on the advice of her tax preparer.
"It helped me pay my mortgage payment this month," Carrie said. "She had researched it and told me to keep it."
And accountant Joe Herschewe agrees, saying the IRS can ask for the money back, but can't force someone to return it.
"There’s no IRS mechanism to return the money and nothing in the regulations to penalize you if you don’t send it back," he said. "I don’t believe anything statutorily that would allow the IRS to asses penalties or interest on those payments for failure to return them."
News 4 reached out to the IRS to ask what the penalty would be if the money wasn't paid back, but did not get a response.
If you are worried about what to do, call your tax preparer for advice and guidance.