Many American citizens living abroad have not yet received pandemic relief payments because of administrative and technical difficulties. In a letter sent a few days ago, American Citizens Abroad (ACA) urged the IRS to streamline the application process and to mount a public awareness campaign to notify taxpayers of potential workarounds. ACA also said it could help those citizens directly by helping them set up U.S. bank accounts, one of the requirements for receiving the payment through direct deposit.

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law by President Donald Trump in March, authorized $1,200 payments to all Americans earning $75,000 a year or less, with reduced amounts for those earning $75,000 to $99,000 per year. The law is a response to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. The legislation tasked the IRS with administering the payments, which has proved a difficult task, as many still wait to receive payments either electronically or through the mail.

To receive a payment electronically, a citizen must have a U.S. bank account, regardless of where the citizen lives. ACA acknowledged that this condition was necessary for security and for fraud prevention but noted that it could be a hurdle for some expatriates: “This can be a problem for Americans overseas who generally bank locally in the countries where they live and only have a foreign bank account“. ACA is working with its members to set up accounts with the State Department Federal Credit Union, which does not require a minimum balance or any fees.

Treasury and the IRS should notify those living abroad who did not file taxes in 2019 or 2018 that they can file a simplified return to ensure that the agency has their filing information.

The IRS website for registering for the payment also often will not accept a foreign address or postal code because of apparent glitches in the system, the letter stated. It also may require a U.S. phone number to verify.

Get My Payment, the tools developed by the IRS has been plagued with problems since it was launched on April 15th.  Many overseas Americans are receiving error messages stating that their eligibility cannot be confirmed or that their tax return information does not match the IRS records.  This appears to be a system-wide problem and not one specifically targeted to Americans overseas accessing the system.  Numerous media articles in both overseas and U.S. publications are reporting the problem.  The IRS has reported to ACA that it is working on correcting the problems and considering their suggestions.

A recently published article in CNET provides the 11 potential reasons why Get My Payment isn’t working as intended and suggests some potential work-arounds – and yes the recommendation of typing your address in all caps has worked for some individuals. It is worth reading the article if you are still trying the tool.

ACA continues to advocate to the IRS to resolve the problems with Get My Payment and to consider the “all-zero return” alternative for Americans overseas.

Of course, all US citizens who file US Taxes and those with very low income, will get the pandemic relief payment, the challenge now is: when?