‘I really didn’t know what to do’: Another Kansan says the IRS thinks he’s dead

KSN Investigates

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Kansas teacher is having trouble getting his refund from the IRS because the IRS thinks he is dead.

Courtesy Tyson Vrbas

Tyson Vrbas contacted KSN after seeing our KSN Investigates report about a Wichita veteran having the same problem. The IRS owed the veteran, Franklin Jackson, thousands of dollars but listed him as deceased.

Less than two weeks after the KSN story aired, the IRS acknowledged Jackson is not dead and paid him his 2019 income tax refund check worth $1,800. It still owes him a refund from 2018 and a 2020 stimulus check.

Vrbas, a 42-year-old Catholic school teacher in Manhattan, is in the same predicament, trying to cut through the red tape to prove he is alive. “I can control a classroom, I can give hopefully instant answers to the kids,” he said.

Vrbas wants to find the right answer in order to get his 2019 income tax refund. “I’m hopeful that it comes to an end here soon, and it just gets taken care of,” he said.

The IRS owes the junior high teacher $5,000 from his 2019 income tax refund plus another stimulus check. But like Franklin, the IRS has Vrbas listed as deceased.

“They said there was something wrong, but they wouldn’t tell me what it was,” he said. “They said they would have to send out a letter, and that would arrive in six weeks.”

Vrbas got the letter. It says, in part, “Information from either your return or our records indicates the primary taxpayer or spouse, if married filing jointly, is deceased.”

The letter asked him to fill out the name of the deceased taxpayer and the date of death. Vrbas called the IRS again wondering what he should do. “They just said, write ‘not deceased’ on there.”

As instructed, he wrote that on the paper and sent it back to the IRS. The person on the phone told him the IRS would give him an answer in six to eight weeks. That was November 11. He still doesn’t have his money.

“Eventually, about ten weeks later, I got a hold of them, and I said this is what I sent back into you. You said eight weeks, and they said now we don’t have a timeline for you,” Vrbas said.

He called KSN to get his tax refund situation straightened out. We contacted his lawmakers, Senator Roger Marshall, Senator Jerry Moran, and Congressman Tracey Mann.

Within days, Vrbas got a letter from Marshall’s office showing communication between their office and the Social Security Administration (SSA). It says, “Social Security’s records show that Mr. Vrbas is alive. I do not see any evidence of his record ever being terminated due to an erroneous death input.”

It also says, “Please pass this along to Congressman Mann’s Office. It will be helpful for their inquiry so that the IRS will not waste time advising them to contact SSA. This is clearly an IRS mistake.”

“It was kind of a breath of fresh air because I was at a point where I really didn’t know what to do,” Vrbas said. Just like Franklin a few weeks ago, this man is also waiting to see when he will get his money.

KSN wanted to know how often the IRS mistakenly marks someone down as deceased. We contacted the IRS to find out how often it happens. We also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the IRS to get five years’ worth of data. When we get those answers, we will bring you an update on KSN and KSN.com.

KSN Digital Extra: Congressional inquiries and getting help from lawmakers

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