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Fri, Jun 16, 2000
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IRS Says Taxpayers With W-2s Marked
'Deceased' Shouldn't Worry

By Curt Anderson  Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Thousands of taxpayers who have received W-2 forms indicating that they're dead need not check their pulses. They're very much alive, and so are the forms.

The Internal Revenue Service announced Friday that taxpayers can go ahead and send those forms in with their returns without correcting them. If they've been corrected, that's OK too.

The errors, which cropped up in places from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to El Paso, Texas, appeared in Box 15 of the W-2 — the form that describes annual earnings, how much taxes were paid, and so on. Box 15 is used to indicate such items as deferred compensation, pension plan coverage, or a deceased person.

Apparently, according to the IRS, when the number of items in Box 15 was reduced from seven to five, some employment tax software developers overlooked this change or used printing specifications that gave incorrect spacing between the items.

The problem is not related to the Year 2000 computer glitch, IRS spokesman Don Roberts said.

Earlier this week, reports began to surface that thousands of employees around the country had an "X" printed in the box showing them as deceased.

"One of the local funeral directors even called me up to offer a special group rate," said J. Michael O'Connell, mayor of Saratoga Springs.

Other places were the mistake was reported were Dickson, Okla.; Muscogee County, Ga.; New Mexico State University; and Fargo, N.D.

The IRS isn't sure how many taxpayers have been affected, but officials say the errors won't affect the processing of the tax return or the amount of any refund. The IRS says it will not impose any penalties and employers don't have to notify the agency.

"When the IRS later matches employers' W-2 data with employees' tax returns, it will take steps to avoid contacting taxpayers about this matter," an IRS statement says.

But just to make sure people don't panic, the IRS adds that companies should "alert their employees to the error and reassure them" that everything is all right.

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