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Some taxpayers found stimulus checks went into accounts set up by tax preparers

Some taxpayers found stimulus checks went into accounts setup by tax preparers
Posted at 11:36 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 00:46:46-04

When Jessica Hiles of Ohio went to the IRS’ “Get My Payment” site last week, she found that her government stimulus check had been deposited. Good news, right?

One problem. The account the IRS said the check was deposited in is not hers.

Hiles is not alone. Many Americans have encountered the same issue with their stimulus check being directed to the bank accounts set up by major tax preparers, such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block.

Hiles opted to use her refund to pay Turbo Tax for her tax preparation directly, meaning her refund went directly to the account setup by Turbo Tax. Because the IRS had a bank account set up by her tax preparer on file, her stimulus check did not make it into her account.

Amanda Matthews also has not seen her stimulus check, and as a single mother who recently has been laid off, time is of the essence.

“I would just like to know either when the checks are going to be mailed out or how can we get this fixed, because I need that money just like any other American,” Matthews said.

Matthews used H&R Block’s Rapid Refund program when she filed her taxes. Rapid Refund is essentially a loan H&R Block gives to customers wanting their refund immediately. The loan money is placed on an “Emerald Card,” which allows customers access to their refund money on the same day they file their taxes.

H&R Block then takes the tax refund directly from the IRS to pay off the customer’s loan. Other major tax preparers offer similar programs, known as “Refund Anticipation Checks,” to help customers get their refund faster than if they were to wait on the IRS.

In normal times, the programs work as intended.

But in an effort to quickly send stimulus checks to Americans, the IRS used whatever bank account information was on file to get the checks out. The result was that an untold number of stimulus checks were distributed to tax preparers rather than their customers.

For a long-time H&R Block customer like Matthews, she just wants to know when she will see her money. H&R Block and other companies could not say exactly when customers would see their check.

It should be noted that these companies were not soliciting the funds from the IRS, and are now stuck with the burden of helping their customers receive stimulus checks meant to go directly from the federal government to taxpayers.

“The IRS is determining when and how stimulus payments are distributed,” an H&R Block spokesperson said. “We are processing payments as soon as they are received and sending the payment to the client’s chosen disbursement – check, Emerald Card or external bank account.”

Jackson Hewitt issued the following statement:

“Jackson Hewitt and its tax preparers have not and will not receive funds from the IRS to distribute taxpayers. Taxpayers should go to IRS.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment [irs.gov] , where they can find their payment status, and type, and update their direct-deposit information. If the IRS has deposited a customer’s stimulus funds onto an active American Express Serve or Bluebird Card, but the client no longer has their card, they can request a replacement online by logging into their Jackson Hewitt, Serve, or Bluebird account.

“Serve customers who would like to receive their stimulus payment to their Serve Account should confirm their direct-deposit information with the IRS and update it if necessary. They will need to provide their Adjusted Gross Income and Federal Tax Refund Amount, which can be found in their MyJH accounts. Step-by-step instructions for accessing one’s MyJH account can be found online at jacksonhewitt.com/support/tax-return-information-for-stimulus/ [jacksonhewitt.com] .”

Turbo Tax has not responded to a request for comment.

Consumer law expert Vijay Raghavan wrote that in some cases, the bank account provided to the IRS in relation to refund anticipation checks close soon after the annual refund is sent. In these cases, the deposits would then be returned to the IRS, and those taxpayers would receive a paper check at some point.

Raghavan wrote that if the account is still open, “the rebate may sit in the account without being distributed.”

“The good news is large chains like H&R Block and tax software companies should have bank account information for the returns they processed,” Raghavan said.

The point of the IRS using direct deposit was to speed the process, as printing checks could take weeks to reach taxpayers. Some of these taxpayers who used refund anticipation loans may be among the last to obtain their stimulus check.

Hiles said her deposit went to Santa Barbara TPG. On Santa Barbara TPG's website, it said, "In the rare event that payments are inadvertently sent to TPG, a plan is in place to help identify and expedite the return of these payments immediately to the IRS so that the IRS can reissue payments directly to affected taxpayers as soon as possible."

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook .