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Confusion over refund advances leads to misplaced stimulus checks

Posted at 8:14 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 08:27:48-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Millions of people could have to wait even longer for their stimulus checks, as banks send back money the IRS mistakenly placed in accounts meant for refund advances.

Local tax prep specialists in Nashville say they’re stuck having to explain to customers what happened, with little to no help from the IRS.

At Fax Tax in East Nashville, a sign greets you at the door explaining as much information as Renee Roberts has to offer.

Her phones haven’t stopped ringing, as customers check the status of their stimulus checks only to find it’s been sent to an account they’ve never seen before.

“They see four digits of an account number that doesn’t belong to them and so after researching and talking to people, we finally realized what had happened,” said Roberts.

One thing you’ll find at most tax prep locations is the option to pay nothing upfront. You get the same service, but instead you pay for the service from your refund. Millions of Americans rely on the option, especially when money is tight.

Some call it a refund advance, where one of the first things you do is offer your direct deposit information.

Then when the IRS sends your refund, they send it to a temporary account setup at your tax preparer’s bank. The bank takes their cut, sends the tax preparer their fee and the rest is sent to your account.

When the IRS sent the stimulus, they used whatever process you used for your last return.

“I think different banks are handling this in different ways, but ours has chosen to send it back to the IRS and at this point we don’t know how fast or how they are going to distribute these,” said Roberts.

In 30 years of business, Renee says this a first. She’s seen stimulus checks sent out before and although they had their own challenges, they pale in comparison to the impact this has had on the millions now forced to wait even longer.

H&R Block and others are now encouraging customers to use the IRS “Get My Payment” app launched Wednesday and setup direct deposit.

As for Renee, she hasn’t had any luck reaching the IRS and neither have her customers.

We tried to reach regional IRS offices for information, but haven’t heard back. Treasury Department officials say they have processed nearly 80 million stimulus checks in the past week and are currently working to address the “glitch.”

As for Renee, she understands this is more than just money, this could be a lifeline.

“These people need these checks. A lot of people are in a very desperate situation without work and not knowing when they’re going to get this check because of this glitch is very frustrating for them,” said Roberts.

Roberts says she’s urging customers to reach out to local lawmakers, in hopes that they too can join in adding urgency for the IRS to resolve the matter.

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