Usually, this kind of situation wouldn't arise. But in some cases, including the tax rebates paid by cheque as part of the US government's economic stimulus package, mistakes can happen, according to New York's Newsday.
Through the wonders of modern technology, some of those federal cheques are being deposited directly into recipients' bank accounts.
But some are not - and are instead, winding up in the bank accounts of complete strangers, according the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.
"We do know of instances of problems; we've heard of situations where rebate cheques have gone to the wrong person's bank account," conceded Kevin McKeon, the Internal Revenue Service spokesman for the New York region. "We're getting a lot of calls to the toll-free number."
One taxpayer, who asked not to be identified, reported that he had discovered an unexpected deposit of US$1,800 (Bt58,200) in his bank account. He said it was a deposit from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) bearing another taxpayer's Social Security number.
He said he contacted the IRS and was told by an agent that the deposit was one of 15,000 misrouted checks sent out incorrectly as a result of a computer program glitch.
McKeon said he could not confirm that figure or that a computer problem was responsible.
The stimulus cheques are for up to $600 for a qualifying single taxpayer, $1,200 for a couple filing jointly, and an additional $300 per child. Payments began in late April, starting with taxpayers who had requested electronic deposits, and are continuing in weekly waves based on the ending digits in Social Security numbers. Paper cheques will be sent out in the same way up until July 11.
"Overall, the vast majority of rebate payments are going out timely and accurately to taxpayers," the IRS said in a statement issued in response to questions from Newsday. "To date, over 29 million payments totalling more than $27 billion have been issued."
Those receiving misdirected IRS deposits must report the mistake to their bank, McKeon said. Similarly, paper cheques sent to the wrong person must be mailed back to the IRS, he said, and any money spent before the recipient is aware of the mistake must be repaid.
So, if you were one of those bank account owners, what would you do? Send the cheque back to the IRS?