TAP Success Story: Refund Payments and Stimulus Payments to Taxpayers with Joint/Separate Bank Accounts

Taxpayer Advocacy Panel Works to Simplify Access to Refund Payments and Stimulus Payments for Taxpayers with Joint/Separate Bank Accounts

After receiving multiple issues from taxpayers with concerns about receiving tax return refunds and economic impact payments, commonly known as “stimulus” payments, the Taxpayer Advocate Panel (TAP) initiated a review of their concerns.

In some cases, TAP members found taxpayers were unable to deposit stimulus funds because the check was made out to both themselves and a current or former spouse, regardless of their marital status. Similar situations arise when the IRS issues pre-paid cards for stimulus payments. Pre-paid cards may be issued to couples or individuals and do not always allow access to the funds by the appropriate person, i.e., the person due the payment.

Another problem identified by TAP happens when stimulus checks are tied to the previous year’s return. When an individual experiences a life changing event, such as a divorce, during the current year, the IRS is not aware of the status change and will issue the check associated with the prior year’s married filing joint return in the names of each party of that return. TAP found that taxpayers may not be aware of their ability to change their refunds routing or how to update their individual information to ensure the IRS sends checks to the right person, address, bank account, etc.

TAP Recommendation Leads IRS to Increase Training and Education to Help Taxpayers Use Form 8888 to Allocate Refund Payments 

IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases), is the form used by taxpayers to allow for the direct deposit of their refund (or part of it) to one or more accounts at a bank or other financial institution in the United States. Form 8888 has the option to split refunds between multiple accounts, however the use of this option is not known.

On the recommendation of TAP’s Special Projects Committee, the IRS agreed to increase training and build awareness of the option to split refunds between multiple accounts on Form 8888.

TAP Believes these changes will improve taxpayers’ knowledge and understanding of payment allocations and ensure funds are readily accessible by the appropriate individual. Additionally, the IRS is considering offering taxpayers living abroad the option of choosing between receiving a check or receiving a pre-paid debit card for their refund payments to avoid issues taxpayers experience with cashing a U.S. Treasury check in other countries.

For more information about Form 8888, visit

Learn more about how TAP members are working to improve the IRS by reading the 2022 TAP Annual Report. If you have suggestions for improving IRS processes and customer service, let us know. We take all comments seriously and will discuss them at a future TAP meeting. You can also make a difference by becoming a TAP member. Join us and help TAP do more great work on behalf of the taxpayers in your community.