The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report Wednesday saying the IRS and Treasury Department delivered $1.4 billion in stimulus payments to dead people.
According to the New York Times, the GAO report said the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service pumped a chunk of money to people no longer alive in a race to deliver more than $270 billion in stimulus payments at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The agencies faced difficulties delivering payments to some individuals, and faced additional risks related to making improper payments to ineligible individuals, such as decedents, and fraud,” the report stated.
The report, titled Opportunities to Improve Federal Response and Recovery Efforts, added the although the IRS typically uses death records from the Social Security Administration in order to prevent improper payments, that did not happen with the first three rounds of stimulus payments.
The report said it was due to a legal interpretation of the legislation authorizing the payments.
Additionally, the report said IRS lawyers “determined that IRS did not have the legal authority to deny payments to those who filed a return for 2019, even if they were deceased at the time of payment.”
The GAO wrote the IRS should develop methods to notify ineligible recipients of the payments and how to return them. The agency also recommended Congress ensure the Bureau of Fiscal Service, which distributed the payments, gain full access to the Social Security Administration’s death records to prevent the situation from happening again.
Separately, the report attacked the Centers for Disease Control’s coronavirus testing numbers. According to the agency, the CDC combines tests for an active infection with those that detect antibodies. The practice is inflating the percentage of Americans who have been tested for COVID-19 and gives an unreliable picture of the way the virus is spreading around the country.