29 October, 2020

Many Felons Are Filing Their First 1040 Tax Forms in 2020

I'd never seen so many prisoners get so excited as when word of a federal court decision on the CARES Act and incarcerated persons reached us. The ruling determined that the IRS can't withhold the 2020 Economic Impact Payment – the so-called COVID stimulus – to anyone simply because of their imprisonment. Convicts nationwide suddenly had until 15 October to file a claim for the $1,200 check most every US taxpayer received months ago.

There were conditions, naturally. Anyone owing child support, or who'd been claimed as a dependent in the past year, was ineligible. Also, the Missouri Incarceration Reimbursement Act allows the state to sue any prisoner who receives over a certain amount of money. More than a few guys saw the 2020 EIP as an excuse for the state to make a money-grab. The majority of my fellow prisoners, though, scrambled to get an IRS Form 1040 and mail that sucker ASAP. Three of my wingmates came begging for the stamps and envelopes necessary for doing so.

Having led lives of drug-dealing, theft, fraud, pimping, and a litany of other felonious livelihoods, at least twenty percent of my wingmates had never filled out a tax form before. They came to my cellmate and me for help. Being recognizably intelligent human beings, Jeff and I briefly became ad-hoc tax advisors, providing instructions to those not in the know. It became tedious only when the same two or three insecure guys came back multiple times, asking the same question again and again. But we muddled through.

The furor diminished by the weekend, as urgent excitement turned to eager anticipation. An extension of the filing deadline tempered people's expectancy a little. But there arose a curious phenomenon. Store men started selling out of their stock, as creditors came to borrow their limit of foodstuffs on credit. Illegal gambling spiked in popularity. The demand for mail-order catalogs went up, with guys compiling lists of things to buy with their stimulus money, from canteen treats to typewriters, sweatshirts to art supplies. The population was spending money before they even had it.

"There's a typical poverty-driven reaction to windfalls," a friend wrote to me in an e-mail on the subject. "We lose the ability to think long-term, and seek comforts first, paving the way for increased hardships ahead." While my family wasn't poor, I grew up in a home that stressed frugality and took a dim view of materialism. The recent flurry of spending behavior around here is alien to me; although, my friend's explanation makes perfect sense.

So where do we go from here? There's confusion about whether the EIP is actually just an advance on a person's future tax filings. Of more immediate concern is the rumor that the IRS, unwilling to release the many hundreds of millions of dollars that this ruling will cost them, has filed an appeal. Who knows if or when we prisoners will see any stimulus money. Meanwhile, the dining hall is serving spaghetti with meatballs for dinner. Other aspects of my life, thank you for asking, are similarly agreeable.


  1. Where is my much awaited Halloween update??

  2. Seriously waiting on the halloween update. I can't wait to read all about your favorite holiday celebrations.


Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.