Every year about this time, the IRS has a nice little -- or in some cases, not so little -- holiday gift for some taxpayers.
I'm talking about the folks that the IRS can't locate.
Now I totally understand why some people want to stay under the IRS' radar.
But in these situations, the IRS has refund checks for 111,893 people, but it doesn't know where to send them. The paper checks were sent back to Uncle Sam by the Postal Service because of mailing address errors.
We're talking about $164.6 million in money that belongs to taxpayers, not the U.S. Treasury. But the cash is sitting in a federal bank account all for wont of a bit of correct mailing info.
When the per-person calculations are done, those millions come to an average refund of $1,471 this year. And some taxpayers are due more than one check.
"We want to make sure taxpayers get the money owed to them," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "If you think you are missing a refund, the sooner you update your address information, the quicker you can get your money."
Find your refund status online: If a refund check is returned as undeliverable, taxpayers can generally update their addresses with the IRS' online tool Where's My Refund?
When you go to that Web page and enter your Social Security number, filing status and amount of refund shown on your 2009 return, the tracking system will tell you the status of your refund and, in some cases, provide directions on how to resolve your refund check's delivery problems.
If you prefer to use the phone, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1954. You'll need the same identifying info that the online refund locator asks for.
An annual problem: This is not a new problem. The IRS gets hundreds of thousands of returned paper refund checks -- accounting for millions of dollars -- every year.
The IRS got back $92 million in in undeliverable tax refund checks in 2006; $110 million in 2007; and $163 million in tax refunds in 2008, not to mention another $103 million in returned rebate checks that year.
Just last year, in November 2009, the IRS announced that it had accumulated $123.5 million in undeliverable refund checks.
If your 2010 tax refund check didn't make it to your snail mail box, maybe you should consider having your next refund directly deposited to a bank account.
Look out for scams: And remember, these returned refunds are getting a lot of attention right now, including from criminals who are looking for ways to make a fast buck off of you.
So don't fall for an e-mail telling you that you need to click to a certain website or reply with your personal tax data to get your undeliverable refund. Any such communication is a scam.
The IRS doesn't contact taxpayers by e-mail to alert them of pending refunds.
The only legitimate way to verify that you have a pending refund is going directly to IRS website and using Where's My Refund?
- Where's your refund?
- The IRS' electronic future
- Direct deposit to replace U.S. checks
- State tax refund delays are now the norm
- Direct deposit triple play
- Split tax refund deposits could cause a splitting financial headache
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