The Internal Revenue Service has begun distributing direct payments to Americans as part of the latest coronavirus relief package, but the process is leaving many taxpayers confused, frustrated, and downright angry. Mostly, they just want their $600 stimulus checks.
Some would-be recipients were surprised on Monday when they checked the status of their payments via the IRS Get My Payment tool only to discover that they did not recognize the destination bank account.
One possible explanation could be that the account was set up by a third-party tax preparer. On Monday, H&R Block informed customers that anyone who took a “refund transfer” on their 2019 taxes may see a bank account other than their own when they check the IRS tool.
The IRS Get My Payment website may display an account number you don’t recognize. If you took a Refund Transfer, it may be reflecting that account number. Check your 2019 return to confirm.
— H&R Block Answers (@HRBlockAnswers) January 5, 2021
A refund transfer allows tax preparers to deduct fees directly from a customer’s refund. H&R Block said customers can confirm whether they took advantage of this option by checking their 2019 returns.
The company added that it will distribute the payments to customers via direct deposit or their H&R Block Emerald Card “by the end of the day,” although many customers responded to the tweet to say that they’d lost no longer had their cards. As of Tuesday, some were also still responding to the tweet to say that they had not yet received their payments.
Reached for comment, H&R Block sent the following statement:
“H&R Block understands stimulus checks are vitally important for millions of Americans. The IRS determines where second stimulus payments were sent, and in some cases, money was sent to a different account than the first stimulus payment last spring. We immediately deposited millions of stimulus payments to customers’ bank accounts and onto our Emerald Prepaid Mastercard yesterday, and all direct deposits are being processed.”
The company added that customers may call its customer service department or tweet at @HRBlockAnswers for more information if the IRS tool displays an unrecognizable account number.
The IRS has also warned users of Direct Express cards—including recipients of Social Security benefits, VA benefits, or Railroad Retirement benefits—that they may not recognize the bank account information reflected in the Get My Payment tool.
For taxpayers with direct deposit already set up, the IRS has said it will distribute the stimulus checks via whatever financial information was provided on a taxpayer’s 2019 returns. Unfortunately, it has also said that payment information can’t be changed. That means if you’re due to receive a check, but you have recently changed banks or closed an account, you may need to claim your check on your 2020 tax return as a Recovery Rebate Credit.
Some of the confusion around how the current payments are being distributed is reminiscent of the first round of stimulus checks when technical glitches from third-party tax preparers caused delays for many customers. Sadly, like last time, the IRS is unlikely to be very responsive to questions from individual taxpayers as it deals with the flood of inquiries.
This post has been updated with H&R Block’s statement.