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NextGen Magazine


Domestic Abusers Can Be Hurdle for Many in Getting Stimulus Money

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jul 23, 2020
Numerous Americans subject to domestic abuse are seeing government pandemic assistance to which they are entitled being held hostage by abusive partners who intercepted the payments, leading some to call for replacement checks sent to survivors, said MarketWatch. The victims are then at risk of their abusers using the money to exert further control at a time when their financial resources are under stress. This risk has already been borne out, as people are reporting that abusive partners simply stole all or part of the money. One person who legally separated from her abusive partner found that he unilaterally filed a joint return when she was gone and took both checks.

Government officials are aware of this problem, and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have pressed the IRS to do something about it. Along with advocates, they have  been pressing the IRS to send replacement checks to survivors and set rules that would prevent abusers from intercepting the cash if there’s a second round of stimulus checks. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig himself expressed sympathy for the situation, saying that it does not sit well with him, but there has been little in the way of specifics as to what steps the IRS will be taking to address it.

Marketwatch interviewed Nancy Rossner, a senior staff attorney at the Community Tax Law Project, who said that she has advised victims of domestic violence to submit “superseding” tax returns by the July 15 tax due date. Such returns, can change their filing status to married, filing separately or head of household. The filings also can include new bank account or mailing address information, which would be crucial if there is a second round of stimulus checks.

The situation can be viewed as a COVID-19-flavored variant on an old problem, as controlling their partners' finances is a depressingly common way for abusers to prevent them from seeking help. MarketWatch pointed to a study of 103 domestic abuse survivors, which found that, in virtually all cases, the abusers controlled their partners' access to money or took advantage of them financially. While the pandemic did not create these problems,  it has certainly exacerbated them: The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a 9 percent overall increase in call volume from March to May, of which 24 percent specifically involved financial abuse.