Thousands of non-US residents received $1,200 coronavirus stimulus checks: report

Thousands on non-U.S. residents who were in the country on temporary work visas have received $1,200 stimulus checks dispensed to them in error under the coronavirus relief CARES Act, NPR reported on Wednesday.

The mistake is apparently due to the fact that many of the foreign workers who annually come to the U.S. for low-wage seasonal jobs filed their tax forms incorrectly.

"I would say probably anywhere to a third to a half [of first-time foreign filers] are filing the wrong return," Georgia attorney Clayton Cartwright told NPR, noting that errors are especially likely if workers use an online tax service such as TurboTax, which is intended only for U.S. residents.

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Cartwright, who specializes in immigration tax law, added, "I don't know if the IRS would even be able to tell. I mean, they have no way of knowing. You don't mark on your [Form 1040] tax return whether you're a citizen."

This is just the latest problem with the stimulus checks, which were meant to help offset the economic hardship created by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly $1.4 billion worth of stimulus checks were also sent in error to dead people.

Under Congress's plan, checks were only supposed to be sent to U.S. citizens and legal "resident aliens." The term "resident alien" is technically a federal tax classification and refers to U.S. residents that either have a green card or have lived in the country a certain number of years.

The exact number of foreign workers who received a stimulus check is unknown, but one tax preparation firm told NPR that it had workers from 129 different countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Nigeria and South Korea, who received money.

Sprintax, a tax preparation company that specializes in nonresidents, told the news outlet that it has done 5,000 amended returns for foreign workers who received stimulus checks in error, a huge increase from the 400 it filed last year.

In response, the federal government acknowledged the fact that some stimulus checks were sent to foreign workers and told NPR that the Treasury Department is "exploring possible options" to prevent the error from occurring again.

The Hill has reached out the Treasury Department for further comment.