tax news — September 26, 2011

Christmas Could Come a Little Early

by Bob Williams

unclaimed refundsOK, we'll cut to the chase. After all, we know how much we hate to wait for the payoff: The IRS just might have some money for you. All you have to do to get it is file.

Did you earn income in the last few years, but didn't file a tax return because you just didn't make enough to file? Or maybe you didn't have any tax withheld from your pay, but would be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit?

If the answer to either question is "Yes," the IRS may have a check waiting for you. In the case of the below-minimum wage earner, you can claim a refund for the tax that was withheld from your pay. For those qualifying for the Earned Income Tax Credit, you just need to file a return to claim it.

Show Me the Money!

In both examples, a return has to be filed with the IRS no later than three years from the due date of the return. A return for withheld taxes in the 2009 tax year, for example, has to be filed no later than 2012. If a return isn't filed within that three-year window, whatever refund was available stays in Uncle Sam's pocket.

Late returns qualifying for refunds will not be assessed a penalty.

If you think you might qualify for this type of refund, you can go to the Forms and Publications page of the IRS website to find current and prior year tax forms, or you can call the IRS at 800-829-3676 (800-TAX-FORM). You can click here to get more information on the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Undeliverable Refunds

What if you were expecting a refund check but never got it?

You'll need to do a little double-checking to make sure the IRS is sending your check to the right address. The IRS sends mailed refunds to the taxpayer's last known address. If you move without formally notifying the IRS, the check is returned to them.

First, you can update your address through the "Where's My Refund?" feature on the IRS website. If there's an undeliverable check to you outstanding in the last 12 months, you'll be prompted to put in an updated address.

You could also file Form 8822, Change of Address, also available on the IRS site. Or, you can call 800-829-3676 for the form.

If you don't have Internet access and you think you may be missing a refund, check your records first, or with your tax preparer. If your refund documentation appears correct, call the IRS assistance line, 800-829-1040 to speak with a specialist, check the status of your refund and confirm your address.

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