HOUSTON — As of Wednesday, the federal government said 80 million Americans will have received their stimulus payments deposited in their bank accounts.
Those who got direct deposits for their Internal Revenue Service tax refunds in 2018 or 2019 were among the first to get their coronavirus stimulus payments.
But many trying to find their money logged on to the IRS website's new tracking tool only to find their stimulus payment went to a bank account that did not belong to them.
Angry customers blame tax prep service companies
When Henry Zimmerle’s wife logged in to the IRS stimulus tracker, the San Antonio couple was surprised to see a bank account number they didn't recognize.
“My wife looked at the IRS website and it did say that the funds were paid out. Then she looked at the account information and found out that it wasn't her account,” Zimmerle said.
They investigated and found the account number belonged to another bank called Metabank. The couple said they tracked it down and found Metabank is the bank for Snapback Tax Services, where Zimmerle said he previously filed his taxes.
He said when he first contacted Snapback, however, he did't get a clear resolution to the problem. He was told to contact the IRS instead. Zimmerle said he then tried to do that, but like many others, he wasn’t successful in getting an answer from the IRS either.
“Right now, at this time, they're not taking any calls. The website is pretty much on a lockdown,” he said Wednesday.
Why are tax prep companies getting the stimulus payments instead of the customers?
KENS in San Antonio reached out to Snapback Tax Services, which had this explanation for the confusion. A spokesperson said that when a client owes the firm a fee for filing their taxes, or if the client applies for an advance refund, a third-party bank – like Metabank – processes and issues the refund.
Snapback Tax Services shared an email with KENS 5 from EPS Financial, a division of Metabank, explaining the IRS erroneously sent the stimulus funds to Metabank accounts instead of sending directly to the client.
The email says, in part:
“The IRS has stated that they will be sending EIP payments directly to the individual recipients. However, we have seen what appear to be EIP deposits sent from the IRS to us for around 15% of our total customer base. These payments should not have been deposited to our bank and we have set in place an automated process to return these payments quickly to allow the IRS to deliver them directly to individuals.”
The email goes on to say that if a customer sees that their stimulus deposit was “inadvertently sent to their temporary account with EPS,” the money was sent back to the IRS.
The email then goes on to advise any client to contact the IRS.
Other tax preparation companies said, in short, they claim they don’t have access to stimulus payments, and are not able to issue any money directly to their clients, nor do they have the option of printing stimulus checks and handing over to their clients. They are all sending the money bank to the IRS.
How and when will tax prep customers get their direct deposit corrected?
EPS Financial, a division of Metabank, posted the following statement on their website, saying the money sent to them by mistake would be sent back to the IRS. Those funds would then be redistributed back to the customer who should have received it directly. WOAI reported this process would take 7 to 10 days.
The IRS will be issuing Economic Impact payments directly to individuals and not to temporary accounts for bank products.
If the IRS inadvertently sent your EIP payment to the temporary bank account at EPS, this payment has been returned to the IRS to be distributed directly to you.
Neither your tax preparer nor EPS have access to this payment or any information regarding it. Neither your tax preparer nor EPS can update your disbursement information.
All questions regarding your EIP need to be directed to the IRS."
Others are getting a message saying their payment status isn't available
Others said the IRS stimulus tracker indicated their money was sent to the wrong bank account or the system can’t determine their eligibility.
KHOU 11 News has asked the IRS what taxpayers should do.
If you’re getting the message saying “Payment status not available,” you should try again another day.
According to an IRS press release, “Get My Payment is updated once daily, usually overnight. The IRS urges taxpayers to only use Get My Payment once a day given the large number of people receiving Economic Impact Payments.”
The IRS said COVID-19 has shut down live phone assistance lines.
It’s unclear what people can do to fix incorrect payment information after deposits are sent.
“Get My Payment cannot update bank account information after an Economic Impact Payment has been scheduled for delivery. To help protect against potential fraud, the tool also does not allow people to change bank account information already on file with the IRS,” according to the IRS press release sent Wednesday.
(Vanessa Croix at KENS and Stephanie Whitfield at KHOU contributed to this report)