Senators Pressure IRS Chief on Difficulties of Stimulus Checks

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig was called to answer for some of the difficulties surrounding this year's stimulus checks by senators debating if another round of payments should be part of future COVID-19 relief legislation. As Congress is expected to start crafting a potential coronavirus relief package upon their return from the Fourth of July recess, Rettig answered questions and gave an update on the payments established by the CARES Act.

"So far, approximately 160 million economic impact payments have been distributed, totaling approximately $270 billion," Rettig said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday, as per The Hill. "However, there is more to do. The IRS remains focused on making sure every eligible American receives a payment."

Lawmakers have largely praised the IRS for its ability to quickly distribute the payments of up to $1,200 per person and $500 per child, but had questions about making sure direct payments were distributed as correctly and to the people most in need. "When we’re talking about another COVID package, one of the things on the table is an additional $1,200 payment, which I hope will actually happen," Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said. "Given that, what should we be doing in the current round in terms of getting people the payments that they deserve? In any future rounds, what should the strategy be with Congress?"

Rettig answered that there have been "lessons learned" with the first round of payments, especially when it comes to informing people about their eligibility and the process. He said the IRS has created new tools for lawmakers and organizations to help with outreach, and that these materials have been put out in more than two dozen languages. The IRS is also making it a priority to reissue checks that were sent to incorrect bank accounts, he added.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa also asked about the 365,000 people who provided information about their dependents to the IRS through the agency’s non-filer site but did not receive the $500 stipend for their children. Rettig answered that the IRS plans to issue the additional payments to those people this summer.

Social Security recipients who missed the non-filer tool deadline in April will not be able to get the payments for their children until they file tax returns next year, he added, but the IRS was re-examining the issue for potential future payments. "We have some limitations on abilities and capacities to move things through, but we’re sympathetic with trying to get as much funds out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible," he said.

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Grassley also questioned Rettig about why some dead people were given payments, to which he responded that the IRS initially was using the same procedures it had when issuing stimulus checks in 2008, but changed the process after the Treasury Department issued guidance about deceased people.

It is still unclear if a future coronavirus relief package would include direct payments, despite House Democrats passing the HEROES Act bill in May that would include a second round. The Republican-controlled Senate has no plans to vote that bill through.