Trump's Signature Won't Delay Stimulus Checks, IRS Says

By Dylan Moroses
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Law360 (April 15, 2020, 3:44 PM EDT) -- Paper checks to relieve the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic are being mailed out on schedule, the Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday following reports that the payments could be delayed to print President Donald Trump's name on them.

President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act last month, directing the IRS to provide stimulus payments to taxpayers in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

The IRS said that the payments be distributed as planned after a Washington Post report on Tuesday said that the Trump administration made a last-minute decision to order the president's name to appear on the left side of the paper checks. The report cited unnamed IRS officials who said the decision could delay the mailing of the checks by a few days.

"Thanks to hard work and long hours by dedicated IRS employees, these payments are going out on schedule, as planned, without delay, to the nation," the IRS said in a statement. "The IRS employees are delivering these payments in record time compared to previous stimulus efforts."

The stimulus payments were authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act signed into law by Trump last month. The legislation directs the IRS to send $1,200 to individual taxpayers and $2,400 to couples filing joint tax returns. The payments will be reduced for those with incomes above $75,000 or $150,000 for couples. They will be eliminated for people with incomes of more than $99,000 and $198,000 for couples.

The law also includes additional tax measures to help businesses navigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, such as an increase on the limitations on business interest deductions, an employer-based worker retention tax credit and changes to the tax treatment of business losses.

Economic impact payments, as they have been called, will be directly deposited into the accounts of people whose banking information is on file with the IRS. Otherwise, the agency will send paper checks.

The Senate Finance Committee's top Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement that the move to add Trump's name to the paper checks was selfish.

"Only this president would try to make a pandemic and economic catastrophe all about him," Wyden said.

But Michael Zona, spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Law360 that the president's name has been regularly associated with recovery efforts in years past under previous administrations.

"During economic downturns in 2001 and 2008, President [George W.] Bush included his name on letters sent in advance of recovery checks," Zona said. "Notably, attaching a name to a check has a negligible expense, unlike the Obama administration's use of costly signs across the country at construction sites built as part of the 2009 recovery legislation."

Zona said that most Americans will receive their stimulus payments via direct deposit into their bank accounts and those transactions won't include Trump's name.

Erin M. Collins, the national taxpayer advocate at the IRS, said Wednesday that there were ways taxpayers could ensure their stimulus payments were processed in a timely way.

For example, an online application unveiled by the IRS on Wednesday can help taxpayers check the status of their stimulus payments and allow them to update their bank account information with the agency if they choose to receive the payment by direct deposit, Collins said in a blog post.

To help ensure the stimulus payments are distributed expeditiously, Collins recommended that taxpayers file information electronically because the IRS doesn't have paper documents readily available while many agency offices are closed to help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

--Additional reporting by Stephen Cooper. Editing by Joyce Laskowski.

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