A new level of stimu-pidity

I wrote last week about how strange the method is by which Congress and the IRS are sending out stimulus money. Eligibility for the stimmy checks is based on income, and the best the IRS can tell your income is by looking at the tax return data they have on you. The problem is, the IRS is many months behind on processing paper documents, and so the data they have on some people is either stale or just wrong.

The design flaws in the "system" became even more apparent today, when the latest round of stimulus money went out to Social Security recipients. Many of them got money that they weren't entitled to.

Take Bob, for instance. Like many people, Bob hasn't filed his 2020 tax return yet. Bob started collecting Social Security in 2020. Bob has a lot of other income, but he's entitled to Social Security, and he takes it. Bob's income is way higher than the threshold for a stimulus check. 

But if Bob filed a tax return for 2019 on paper last summer, around the extended due date of July 15, Bob might want to check his bank account today (or his snail mailbox tomorrow). There very well may be an extra $1400 there. The IRS may not have processed Bob's 2019 return yet, even though they've had it for seven or eight months. And so the IRS erroneously thinks that Bob is a low-income guy who doesn't need to file a return. They sent him a stimulus.

If Bob finds the money in his account today, will he have to pay it back? So far I haven't seen anything anywhere that says he will have to. Crazy.

What if Bob filed his 2019 tax return electronically last summer? He probably won't find any stimulus money in his account today. The IRS knows he makes too much. And he won't be able to get his $1400 any other way, such as by a tax credit. Sorry, Bob. E-filing did you wrong.

Is this any way to run a country? I guess when you're stimulating somebody, you don't have to be too careful about it, so long as you get them excited.