A tax filing error has led to thousands of foreign students who performed work in the United States to receive $1,200 stimulus checks. Many of stimulus recipients are no longer in the United States, but performed work in the U.S. while in the country on either an F-1 student visa or a J-1 cultural exchange visa.
According to Politico, the foreign students filed their tax returns with one of the online tax providers. The online providers erroneously filed "resident" tax returns on the foreign students' behalf when, instead, it should have filed "non-resident" returns.
The CARES Act, passed by Congress last month, provides automatic tax refunds for qualifying tax filers with individual incomes below $99,000 or married filing jointly incomes below $198,000. Congress meant to exclude all individuals who are not U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents from receiving the tax refunds, but the IRS has a different definition for "alien residents" then that in immigration law. The discrepancy has led to some nonimmigrant, foreign workers currently residing in the United States receiving the refund.
The foreign students receiving the tax refund is not due to the difference in definitions, however. It's purely due to a filing error, and it not being caught by the IRS.
Neither the IRS or Turbo Tax, and online tax filing provider, responded to a request for comment by Politico.
Updated: Fri, May 15th 2020 @ 7:55am EDT