The IRS has openly admitted its own mistake in sending $1,200 stimulus checks to non-Americans in overseas countries. According to NPR, the department is now taking responsibility for the errors, which led to foreign citizens being sent U.S. coronavirus stimulus payments, after having initially blamed the recipients for filing tax returns incorrectly. However, NPR notes that many of the overseas residents who were sent checks have not filed tax returns in the United States.
One such individual was 78-year-old Swedish citizen Susanne Wigforss, who lives in Stockholm. "I thought, 'I can't believe it,'" she recalled thinking when she received the payment. "They're sending it to me. Why? I mean, it's crazy, isn't it?" Wigforss is neither a U.S. citizen nor a U.S. "resident alien" — the two main qualifying factors in stimulus check eligibility — but she does receive a small Social Security payment from having worked for several years in California.
"This is so wrong," Wigforss said, "because I saw that a number of people were being evicted every month in Chicago, for instance, and I thought one of those families would have needed this stimulus check. Why should a Swedish citizen living abroad receive $1,200?" She went on to say, "There's no way I'm going to cash this money — it doesn't belong to me. But how much money is bleeding out from the Treasury Department because of these [misdirected] stimulus checks, I wonder?"
Reports of foreign residents being sent American stimulus payments appear to have first emerged around early May. At the time, a British national named Elizabeth B. spoke with MSN about having been sent a stimulus check. Elizabeth — who chose to withhold her full last name — worked as a communications consultant in New York on an E-2 investor visa for many years. She was issued a Social Security number, and paid taxes, which is required under the conditions of this specific work visa.
In 2018, she earned $13,000 over the course of a few months, eventually returning to the United Kingdom. Had she remained in the United States for the entire year, her annual income would have surpassed the $99,000 individual limit to be eligible for a stimulus payment. "I was totally shocked," she told the outlet. "I never for a minute thought it was a possibility that I would get this money. I'm a rich foreigner getting American money. I don't deserve this money. There are so many people in America who need it."