America's $1,400 Stimulus Checks Got Sent To Japanese Citizens In Japan

By Dave Basner

May 21, 2021

Millions of Americans recently received the third stimulus check, which for many people was $1,400, but it turns out that not just Americans got the direct payment - citizens of Japan were sent the checks as well.

The IRS was supposed to only distribute the stimulus payments to eligible U.S. citizens and residents, since non-citizens living outside of America did not qualify for it. However, folks in Japan still got the money. So what happened? Apparently the Japanese recipients had lived in America but left many years ago, before Japan and America's Social Security agreement went into effect in 2005. In those days, Japanese expats working in America had to pay into Social Security, so the IRS had their records on file, this way, Japanese citizens could still receive Social Security when they returned to Japan. Somehow those addresses got mixed in with the stimulus check distribution list.

That was the case for one 79-year-old man and his wife who live near Yokohama. They each got a stimulus check for $1,400. The man thought it was his monthly Social Security benefits, since he paid into Social Security while working in America from 1978 to 1983. However, he realized it was something else. His bank told him the checks were likely just for U.S. citizens so he contacted the American embassy in Japan to see if he could cash it. According to the Asahi Shimbun, the embassy referred him to the IRS. He hasn't contacted them or cashed the check because he didn't "want to go through all the trouble to make an international phone call," but did state, "The United States has so much money to spare that it gives out (the checks) to foreigners like me who lived there about 40 years ago."

According to the IRS, they use the most recent tax information to decide who gets the checks, but when people haven't filed taxes for years, the IRS turns to recipient lists created by the Social Security Administration, which is what caused the confusion.

The IRS asks that anyone overseas who got the money void the checks and return them. The Internal Revenue Service did not say what kind of punishment, if any, those recipients would face if they already cashed the checks.

Photo: Getty Images

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