IRS declares SC woman dead, fight to fix it continues 1 year later

IRS declares SC woman dead, fight to fix it continues 1 year later
IRS declares SC woman dead, fight to fix it continues 1 year later(Emily Wakeman)
Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tax season is here, with millions filing their returns before the May 17 deadline. But one Lexington woman says she will not be able to file her 2020 tax returns.

Cathy Celentano cannot file her tax returns because she’s been marked as deceased in the Internal Revenue Service’s system.

Celentano said the problem started last April when she went to file her tax returns for the last three years. When she hadn’t heard anything back, she began calling the IRS.

She said it was then that she was told there had been an error in the system. “They told me I was deceased in their computer,” Celentano said.

Over the next 8 months, Celentano called the IRS every few weeks asking how this happened and when the problem would be fixed.

“Each time I would call and get a different answer,” Celentano said. “They said it was a systemic error in their system that someone had marked me as deceased.”

She said all her efforts to get the problem fixed were unsuccessful. She was unable to file her 2020 tax return or receive a stimulus check this year.

“It’s like being a minnow in a pond of sharks, but there’s no real leader to the sharks,” Celentano said. “You get a different answer from everybody.”

WIS reached out to the IRS. A spokesperson said they can’t comment on any individual case but recommended a tax advocate for those who are having issues. Celentano, however, said she hasn’t been able to reach anyone at the South Carolina Tax Payer Advocate Service.

“I have spent hours and hours and hours trying to reach out to get someone to help me,” Celentano said.

Celentano said that’s when she turned to tax service Jackson Hewitt for help in February.

“We had never seen that happen in the 12 years that I’ve been with the company; I haven’t had anyone come back as deceased,” Sarah Hoffman, the Vice President of Franchise Operations for Jackson Hewitt, said.

Hoffman said Celentano isn’t her only client who is facing this problem.

“There were a couple of others this year that had that same error,” Hoffman said.

Celentano has signed over power of attorney to Jackson Hewitt and they are working to get the problem resolved.

“It has been frustrating for sure because we have been trying a lot of different things to get it to go through,” Hoffman said.

Celentano said she takes care of her 10-year-old granddaughter, so the money from the tax returns and stimulus checks could really help.

“It’s been devastating,” Celentano said. “It’s going to bed each night not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring.”

WIS reached out multiple times to the South Carolina Tax Payer Advocate Service but hasn’t heard back.

Celentano said she has also reached out to Senator Graham’s office for help finding a tax advocate. She is in the process of completing that paperwork as well.

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