Northtowns widow comes back from the dead—twice

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – North Tonawanda grandmother Nancy Pipalski is thoroughly exasperated. The U.S. government insists she is dead—a declaration by two federal agencies, the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service—yet here she is alive and kicking, kicking mad.

Social Security listed Pipalski on its Death Master File back in December, but with the help of Call 4 Action, she returned to the realm of the living in January. No sooner had the Northtowns widow recovered from that near death experience, she found herself dead in the eyes of the IRS, after filing her income tax return.

“My son did it, electronically, and they rejected it,” said Pipalski, “so then he tried with my charge cards saying that I am alive because these charge cards are working. He did it twice, and they rejected them also.”

Worse still, the IRS authorized the administrator of her 401k retirement account, and an annuity to release her money to her grown children because of her reported demise.

Nancy contacted the bank before the funds were released, “she said, well, it looked like the IRS had pronounced me dead on December 2, and December 22 I was alive again. But then I could not be, because they got this at the end of January in the mail, telling them that they were beneficiaries to my annuity and my 401k.”

Social Security even issued an official letter confirming Nancy is still among the living, so she made an appointment to meet face-to-face with IRS officials at their Taxpayer Assistance office downtown, in two weeks.

“I just want my life back, that’s all. I want my refund, and I want to be alive because I am, and hey, I don’t have that many years left, and I want to enjoy the ones I do have.”

The IRS would not comment on Pipalski’s dilemma, due to confidentiality laws, but the tax agency does monitor the Social Security Death Master File regularly, so it would not be a stretch to assume there are a lot of Nancy Pipalski’s across the country.

As News 4 has been reporting, the Social Security Administration is updating its data collection with an Electronic Death Registration to improve its recordkeeping and reduce the errors in the Death File. Western New York is supposed to join that system next month. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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