Confused Japanese Citizens Receive Stimulus Checks From Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Package

Some Japanese citizens are reportedly receiving stimulus checks of up to $1,400 each from President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief package approved in March.

Surprise in the mail: The recipients, noncitizens who once lived in America but left a long time ago, posted online that they were surprised to receive stimulus checks from the U.S. Treasury, reported Asahi Shimbun.

  • A 79-year-old man and his wife in Kanagawa Prefecture received the checks from the U.S. Department of the Treasury back in April, each containing $1,400 (152,000 yen).
  • The man first thought the checks were from his U.S. Social Security benefits. He had paid Social Security taxes while he was stationed in the U.S. from 1978 to 1983. 
  • The Japan-U.S. bilateral agreement guarantees that he and his wife receive a monthly Social Security payment of $500 from the U.S. government.
  • However, a friend told him that the check is part of Biden’s stimulus package and suggested that he might be able to cash it.
  • “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,” the man said, entertaining the idea of cashing the two checks. 

Unqualified recipients: According to the U.S. IRS, those who are living outside the U.S. in 2021 no longer qualify to get the checks, which are sent out based on incomes claimed on tax returns to U.S. citizens and residents, Nikkei Asia reported.

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  • The Kanagawa man reached out to a bank staff but was told the checks were likely intended for U.S. citizens.
  • He also asked the U.S. Embassy in Japan if Japanese citizens could cash the checks, but the agency pointed him to the IRS as the money is under its jurisdiction. 
  • The man ended up doing nothing because he did not “want to go through all the trouble to make an international phone call.”
  • According to the IRS, foreign nationals overseas who received the checks should void them and send them back. It did not provide details on whether there is punishment for those who have already cashed them. Those who do not return the checks could receive a warning letter in 2022.

Featured Image via ANN

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