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GAO urges IRS to update estimate of people who have yet to receive stimulus payments

GAO urges IRS to update estimate of people who have yet to receive stimulus payments
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Monday urged the Treasury Department and IRS to update and refine their estimate of the number of people who have not yet received their coronavirus relief payments, saying that doing so "could provide greater clarity about which populations may be at risk of missing out on the payment." 

"Without an updated estimate, Treasury, IRS, other federal agencies, and IRS’s outreach partners are limited in their ability to appropriately scale and target outreach and communication efforts to individuals who may be eligible for a payment," the GAO said in a report.

Legislation enacted in March directed the Treasury and IRS to provide most Americans with a one-time payment of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. The agencies have said that the vast majority of the payments have been issued, but there are still some who have not received the payment to which they are entitled.

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Treasury estimated in April that 30 million individuals who typically are not required to file a tax return are eligible for a payment, including 14 million who don't receive certain federal benefits. The IRS has indicated that 5.3 million people have used the IRS's web tool for non-filers to claim their payments through July 31. As a result, there could be at least 8.7 million people who are eligible for a payment but haven't gotten one, the GAO said.

The GAO said that Treasury and the IRS haven't updated their April estimates to account for new data. Treasury officials told the GAO that updated estimates wouldn't provide the detailed information it needs to conduct outreach, and that the department is examining information that third parties use to notify government agencies about taxable payments in order to identify people who have yet to get their payment.

The GAO expressed concerns that the lack of an updated estimate could hinder the efforts to reach out to those who haven't yet claimed their payments, putting those people in danger of losing out on relief.

"Representatives from two organizations that are conducting outreach on the payments said that an estimate of the number of individuals who still need the payment, particularly if matched with ZIP code data, could help them to focus outreach and communication resources," the GAO wrote. "One IRS outreach partner also said eligible recipients who have not yet filed for the payment are outside the tax system, likely to be very low-income, and could most use the payment."

The Treasury and IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with the GAO's recommendations, according to the report. The IRS has announced that it will be sending letters to about 9 million non-filers to urge them to claim their payment.