Donald J. Trump’s name will be on stimulus checks in an unprecedented move

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It will be the first time that a President’s name appears on an IRS disbursement, be it a routine refund or one of the few checks the government has issued to taxpayers in the past. recent decades, either to stimulate a declining economy or to share the dividends of a strong economy.

Treasury officials contested the late checks.

While some people receiving checks – the centerpiece of the US government’s economic rescue plan to ward off the effects of the coronavirus pandemic – may not care or observe whose names appear on them, the decision is another sign of Trump’s effort to launch his response to the pandemic in political terms.

Trump had privately suggested to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the IRS, to allow the President to officially sign the checks, according to three administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not not allowed to speak publicly.

But the President is not an authorized signatory of legal disbursements by the United States Treasury. It is common practice for an official to sign checks issued by the Department of the Treasury to ensure that government payments are not partisan.

The checks will instead bear Trump’s name in the memo line, below a line that reads “Economic impact payment,” administration officials said.

The IRS will send checks to people for whom it does not have banking information. Many of them have low incomes.

The checks will bear the signature of an official from the Tax Services Office, the Treasury division that prints the checks. The checks will follow direct deposits issued in recent days to the bank accounts of approximately 80 million people. These payments do not include the name of Trump.

The decision to send paper checks to Trump’s name, which has been in the works for weeks, according to a Treasury official, was announced to the IRS IT team on Tuesday morning. The team, working from home, are now fighting to implement a programming change that, according to two senior IRS officials, will likely delay the issuance of the first batch of paper checks. They are expected to be sent to the Tax Services Office on Thursday for printing and publication.

The computer code should be changed to include the president’s name and the system should be tested, said the officials. “Any last-minute request like this will create a growl downstream that will cause a delay,” said Chad Hooper, a quality control officer who is national president of the IRS’s Professional Managers Association.

A representative from the Treasury Department, however, denied any delay and said the plan was still to issue the checks next week.

“Economic impact payment checks must be made on time and exactly as planned – there is absolutely no delay,” the official said in a statement. She said it was a faster process than the stimulus checks that the George W. Bush administration had issued in 2008 to prevent an impending recession.

“In fact, we expect the first checks to be mailed out early next week, which is well before the first check release date in 2008 and well before the initial estimates,” said the release. .

An IRS representative referred questions to the Treasury Department.

Paper checks are expected to be issued at a rate of $ 5 million per week until September, starting with the smallest taxpayers.

The government’s $ 2,000 billion stimulus package, the government’s largest and most recent coronavirus rescue program, was adopted by a bipartisan Congress and signed by the President. Taxpayer checks weren’t originally Trump’s idea, but he adopted them after the Senses. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) And Mitt Romney (R-Utah) proposed them.

The White House initially announced lower payroll taxes as the centerpiece of its stimulus effort, but backed off in an effort not to reach American households quickly enough.

Trump has repeatedly called the legislation “an initiative of the Trump administration” and has stood out singularly at the center of what the government is doing to help the Americans during the response to the coronavirus – taking all the credit.

About six months before his re-election, his campaign being suspended because the virus prevented him from holding popular rallies at his base, checks offer Trump a new form of retail policy. A check provides a symbol of tangible bread and butter to taxpayers right in their mailbox.

But for critics and some IRS staff, many of whom got to know about the decision on Tuesday, the presence of Trump’s name on partisan checks in a corner of government that affects all Americans and who, since the Nixon era, has consistently avoided politics. After President Richard Nixon targeted a wide range of “enemy” groups for tax controls, including civil rights groups, journalists, and prominent Democrats, Congress passed laws to ensure that the agency behaves apolitically.

“Taxes are supposed to be non-political, and it’s that simple,” said Nina Olson, who resigned last fall after an 18-year tenure as a National Taxpayer Advocate, leading a branch of the IRS which helps individual taxpayers to resolve tax issues, manages clinics for low income taxpayers and advises the agency on service issues.

“This is absolutely unprecedented,” said Olson.

She recalled that when the Bush administration issued $ 300 to $ 600 economic refund checks to taxpayers in 2001 to share the benefits of a strong economy, the White House asked the IRS to include in a letter to taxpayers a phrase that took credit for “giving you your money.” ”

The IRS commissioner at the time refused, said Olson, because the move was perceived as too political.

When the Bush administration launched its $ 168 billion economic stimulus package in 2008, the checks were signed by a Treasury official.

Only the IRS commissioner and general counsel are politically appointed. Current Trump-appointed commissioner Charles Rettig, a tax lawyer confirmed by the Senate in 2018, has been appointed for a five-year term intended to extend into a possible new administration.

Hooper, president of the Professional Managers Association, said he was dismayed by what he called “an abuse of government resources”.

“In this time of need for additional resources,” said Hooper, “anything that causes us to get these checks out and obstruct the fair and just administration of the tax code is not something we can support. “

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) rejected suggestions about signing checks or fixing his name. Last week, she said payments should be made as quickly as possible without “waiting for a fanciful letter from the president.”

About 150 million Americans and others are expected to receive the single payment. The first wave of recipients mainly includes people who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and gave the IRS their direct deposit information.

As part of the stimulus package, single filers earning up to $ 75,000 a year receive a payment of $ 1,200. Married couples earning up to $ 150,000 a year receive a payment of $ 2,400. Parents receive an additional $ 500 for each child under the age of 17.

Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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