He’s not dead: East TN widower trying to get 2020 tax refund despite IRS error

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee man has been battling the Internal Revenue Service since last year trying to convince the agency that he’s alive.

Twice, Michael Sisson’s federal income tax return has been rejected. The IRS says the person with Sisson’s Social Security number “is deceased.”

Sisson has expressed his frustration over the matter especially since he’s owed more than $1,000 in a tax refund which he hasn’t received because he is supposedly dead. The Social Security Administration says he’s alive, but he cannot seem to reach the proper government office to settle the matter.

Sisson is a maintenance supervisor at an RV sales center in Clinton. For two years now he’s been battling an uphill fight with the IRS trying to prove he’s alive. Michael, the father of two grown children, is a widower. His wife of 31 years, Tracy, passed away from cancer in November 2019.

Early in 2020, when Sisson filed his income tax return, he received no refund, even though he’s due money from the Internal Revenue Service. 

“They said that they had the Social Security numbers mixed up and that I was deceased instead of my wife even though I had mailed them a death certificate,” Sisson said.

He showed us a certified copy of his wife’s death certificate which he sent off to the IRS.

“And, it is self-explanatory, there’s my wife’s name, when she passed away, the time of death and everything,” he said.

Sisson showed his tax return from Feb. 21, 2020.

“(It says) that I was deceased even though they continued to take the Social Security out of my check, they said that I was deceased,” Sisson said. “And (my) wife was… still alive, according to them.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, Sisson contacted the Social Security office in Oak Ridge.

“And they sent a letter to me and the IRS that said I was not deceased,” he said.

His “demise” was again brought up when he filed his taxes for 2020 with H&R Block. A single sentence was sent to the tax preparation business.

“It says I’m deceased. It says it was kicked out by the Social Security Administration because I was a deceased individual and it has my Social Security number right there,” he said.

So, he tried calling the IRS.

“I bet you I’ve  probably called them at least a dozen to a dozen-and-a-half times,” Sisson said. “I get switched from one department to the other. Then they’ll tell me that the department is closed.”

Since the pandemic hit, there have been two rounds of stimulus checks sent to millions of Americans. The first checks sent last spring and the second just last month.

“I was dead, and I got my check,” Sisson said. “The IRS that’s who sent me the check. Yet, they neglected to send me the $600 check, the second check, because I was still dead.”

What’s happened in Sisson’s situation is that when he filed his tax return, the IRS “locked” his account. Where the mistake initially occurred isn’t known at this time.

To get his account unlocked, we’ve learned that the Social Security Administration is the first step in correcting the situation.

WATE 6 On Your Side wrote to the IRS and Social Security and forwarded various documents which show Michael Sisson is very much alive and would like to receive his income tax refund. The Social Security Administration responded saying it “will reach out to Mr. Sisson and provide any necessary assistance.”

“I just want them to get my name off of being deceased and give me my money with interest, I supposed, because they should owe me interest,” Sisson said.

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