Woman can't get tax refund because IRS says she's dead

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (WPIX) – New Jersey resident Jeanette Carpenter is very much alive. But according to the Internal Revenue Service, she is dead.

“My Social Security number belongs to a deceased person,” Carpenter said.

When Carpenter filed her 2020 taxes, her accountant received an unusual notice in return. Carpenter’s Social Security number belonged to someone who is dead.

“I asked them if they were getting me confused with my husband who passed away in 2009 and they said no,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter’s accountant refiled twice more and got the same response. “What baffles me is I work for the government,” Carpenter said.

So Carpenter went to her local IRS office and refiled again in person, on paper. She said she was told everything looked good, and she would have her return in six to 12 weeks. However, she’s still waiting.

In April, Carpenter tried her luck with the Social Security Administration and received an official letter confirming her status as alive. But weeks later, she received a letter from the IRS saying her taxes couldn’t be processed because she was dead.

Carpenter said an IRS employee told her over the phone that her Social Security number was marked in 2010 as belonging to a deceased person and that the system was just catching up. She said it’s never been an issue when she’s the one who has owed money.

“I owed $1,300 in 2018. I put it in my account, woke up two days later and the IRS took the $1,300 that was owed to them,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter needs the money from her refund to catch up on medical bills from major surgery that left her out of work for four months in 2020.

Three weeks ago, she refiled her return again in person. She said an employee promised to overnight it to the government. That was the last she heard.

“There’s nothing. I can’t get through to them. I’m on a long hold and then they hang up. I haven’t gotten any of my stimulus checks. I can’t file my 2021 [taxes] until I see what they are going to do with the 2020 [taxes]. But I’m alive, in living color,” Carpenter said.

WPIX reached out to the Social Security Administration about Carpenter’s situation, but did not receive a response. The IRS said that federal employees cannot disclose tax return information.

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