One of the early efforts to prop up the economy after government-mandated shutdowns closed businesses and put millions of people out of work was sending qualifying individuals. $1200 checks as part of the CARES Act. According to a recent court order, prison inmates are entitled to those checks, too.

U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton’s order changes Trump administration policy:

Now, not only does the government have to give that money back to prisoners, but Hamilton also ordered the IRS to extend to Oct. 30 a deadline for incarcerated individuals to file paper returns to get their money before the end of the year.

The judge also said the IRS should immediately send a memo to staff working the agency’s hotline and other public-facing roles to stop telling people that the incarcerated are ineligible for a stimulus payment. Additionally, the IRS has to send letters to correctional facilities retracting prior communication that stimulus payments should be intercepted and returned. The letters should also include a statement from the agency that incarcerated people are permitted to submit claim forms and receive stimulus payments.

A Treasury Department watchdog initially flagged the payments, and the IRS eventually updated its website to say:

A payment made to someone who is incarcerated should be returned to the IRS. For a payment made with respect to a joint return where only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the incarcerated spouse.

The Trump administration is appealing the ruling.

Image Credit: By Joshua Doubek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons