Confused for dead, a KSN Investigates follow-up to an IRS problem with income tax refunds nationwide

KSN Investigates

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – KSN News is following up on previous investigations of two Kansans who were trying to get their income tax refunds but couldn’t get their money because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) listed them as deceased.

After our reports, Tyson Vrbas, a Manhattan Catholic School teacher, and Franklin Jackson, a Wichita veteran, now have their money.

“Be persistent, because it’s easy to get beat down by the system,” said Franklin Jackson.

“They run you in circles, and then it’s very frustrating,” said Tyson Vrbas.

KSN Investigates wanted to dig deeper into the problem and filled out a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to determine how many people are affected every year nationwide and how much money is potentially left unclaimed when Americans don’t get their income tax refunds.

The answer we received from the IRS said, “a search was conducted, and no records were located in response to your request.”

KSN followed up with a call and an email to the IRS for clarification on the answer but never heard back.

“I think this is just one example of a federal government, a department that’s grown too big yet it’s not efficient,” said U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, R-Kansas.

Sen. Marshall is one of the lawmakers who helped get both Jackson and Vrbas their income tax refunds. KSN asked Marshall if this situation is the definition of government waste or even government incompetence.

“You got it, and that’s the problem with technology,” said Sen. Marshall.

KSN Investigates also asked him what he would propose to solve the problem.

“Well, I think the role of Congress is to hold these departments accountable, and I think we have to develop ways to hold them accountable and fire people,” added Sen. Marshall.

KSN News found out this problem isn’t just happening in Kansas. In fact, it also happened to a man in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“They said they had the Social Security numbers mixed up, and I was deceased instead of my wife, even though I had mailed him a death certificate,” said Michael Sisson.

Michael’s wife of 31 years, Tracy, passed away from cancer in November 2019. She was listed as still alive by the IRS. He went back and forth with the agency for more than a year about his 2020 income tax refund.

Michael acknowledged that he contacted the Social Security Administration (SSA), which confirmed in its records that he is alive. Days after his story aired in Tennessee, the IRS changed his status from deceased to alive.

KSN still has questions and has requested an interview with the IRS commissioner to find out why the problem keeps happening. We are still waiting for an answer.

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