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5 reasons you may not get a refund

Even if it appears the IRS owes you money, you may not get a refund if you owe back child support or defaulted on student loans -- or if the IRS can't find you.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 21, 2012 6:40PM

This post is fromJacoba Urist at Wise Bread.


One big upside to filing your tax return, if you've already paid more than you owe, is getting money back from the government. How good does it feel to see that positive amount on the bottom of your return? Some families put their refund right into a college savings account, pay off their credit card, take a long-awaited vacation or simply use the money to make ends meet in these tough economic times.


But every year there are tens of millions of dollars the IRS won't be refunding. Before you count on the check from Uncle Sam, make sure you don't fall into one of these categories.


Here are five reasons you may not get a tax return, even if it appears the IRS owes you:


1. There are errors on your return.


Every spring, people make the same relatively straightforward mistakes on their tax returns that prevent the IRS from processing their refund on time. Common errors include putting down the wrong filing status, writing down an incorrect Social Security numbers or omitting information that's required for certain credits and deductions.

Double and triple check your return before you submit it, paying particular attention to anywhere you have to fill in names, numbers or addresses. Try to give yourself as much time as possible. Doing your return at 2 a.m. the day it's due doesn't leave you much room to catch any mistakes.


If you're preparing your own return, without the help of a tax professional, be careful that you've done your math correctly and you actually are due money back. Too often, I see people who run out and spend a phantom refund, only to have the rug ripped out from under them when they find out their calculations were off, and they aren't getting anything from the government this year.


Don't spend your tax refund until you can either physically hold the check in your hand or see the amount in your bank account.


2. You owe back taxes.


Nobody likes to hear this. The IRS is like the friend who holds a grudge for a long time and never lets go. If you owe federal or state taxes from previous years, the government can just yank the amount you're expecting back this year and apply it as an "overpayment" towards the taxes you haven't paid yet. It's "bye-bye, refunds" until the entire debt is gone.

3. You haven't paid child support.
While it might take a little while for the right federal and state agencies to catch up with the problem, the government can place a levy on your tax refund to pay any outstanding child support you owe -- even after your kid is 18 and no additional support is legally due.


4. You defaulted on your student loans.


With the job market the way it is, it's no surprise that more people are having trouble keeping up with their student loan payments.


Be aware the IRS can (and does) turn your refund over to the Department of Education to pay down loans you've defaulted on. The agencies do talk to one another, and while it may not happen right away, chances are they will catch up with you.

5. The IRS can't find you.


As hard as it may be to believe in the world of Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter, the IRS is holding onto $153 million right now in refunds it can't deliver.


Why? Because the agency has an incorrect mailing address and can't locate your residence to mail you a check. The IRS won't try to contact taxpayers by email or phone, so you might have no idea that they're holding on to your money.


Best thing to do? Always choose to have your refund deposited directly into your bank account if you can (and triple check those numbers to make sure they're right), especially if you know you're moving soon.


If you suspect you fall into this category, check in with the IRS on its website or hot-line to make sure the agency isn't holding on to money that's yours.


More from Wise Bread and MSN Money:



Feb 26, 2012 8:42AM
It's amazing the IRS can't find you when they owe you money but when you owe them money they are quick to track you down.
Mar 1, 2012 11:49AM
Can someone explain to me why these young girls with babies and no father in the picture are getting these huge tax returns.   They maybe work part-time and pay in $500.00 and get thousands back...where is the fairness with this?  As taxpayers we already subsidize their housing, food and healthcare.  If you are low income and pay $500.00 then I would be happy to send you  back $400.00 and you have to pay $100.00 in taxes as these are the same people who use up the services.    All need to pay their fair share.   Most of these use the refund in frivolous ways, i.e. fancy wheels for cars, tattoos, etc.  I am sick of working (2 jobs) to keep paying and paying not only my fair share but theirs also...We need tax reform so that ALL pay to support the country not just a chosen few.   
Feb 26, 2012 7:34PM

The thing that iratates me the most about the IRS is the penalties and interest they charge on back taxes. I owe the IRS money the principal has been paid at least 5 years ago the penalties and interest is still owed it is more than the original debt. It is just wrong. You could get better rates from the mob for petes sake. 


Mar 1, 2012 8:58AM
I live below the poverty line and yet, I will owe taxes this year because they have done away with the earned income credit benefit.  I was told to claim more on my W-4, but I already can't make ends meet as it is.  My employer does not give raises, merit, cost of living, or otherwise.  They also discourage getting other work besides what we do for them due to the stressful nature of our job.  For those who would tell me to go out and get a college degree, I have one.  I also have a disability, which negates my college degree in the job market.  I am also just a few years from retirement by age, so I am stuck.  At least I have a job, never mind that it is not a living wage.  I will not describe what my employer does in case the boss reads these.  The next few weeks until the next payday will be so tight that I will not even be able to eat everyday, can't afford the groceries.  Yet, Uncle Sam still thinks he should take some of my money to continue to bail out Wall Street whenever THEY need it so CEOs and executives can use my tax money to help themselves to ill-gotten gainls.
Feb 26, 2012 5:45AM

The IRS are crooks, they take from all tax payers every year from the payroll and double or triple the income gap. The IRS was suppose to be just temporary but for some apparent reason now they are so powerful that they have the secret service to take anything you worked hard for without any reason what so ever. I wish that WE THE PEOPLE can just get justice from the government and get all the money that we worked so hard and earned back so that we could buy things without putting it in a politicions pockets. Isnt that the reason why we have tax returns? So, we the american people can buy things and put back into this economy without having to look over our shoulders and see that uncle sam sends his cronys to do the dirty work for him. Sad, how this government got so big heade and keeps putting us into all these wars like fighting drugs, going into other countrys and tearing a new **** in all of us for there political gains. why cant we just get back the money we deserve so that the americans could put the money in the economy instead of making us look like we were the ones who committed a crime. i owe from 2008 and was surprised on how they railroade me to pay up, it makes all of us worry about who side is uncle sam really on?

Mar 1, 2012 11:00AM
Shortly after I E-filed, I found out that somebody used my SSN number to file a Federal Tax Return and claim a refund.  I can't file a return by E-file any more and both my return and a substantial refund are just in limbo.  Told by the IRS that it could be more than a year before they investigate and settle.  Meantime I just wait.  Apparently there are over 250,000 similar cases just from 2011 alone.
Mar 1, 2012 9:05AM
Back in the mid-1980s, my husband died, and left a tax debt from before we even knew each other.  To the IRS, that became my tax debt.  To my attorney, the IRS was asking for trouble trying to get me to pay a tax debt that was never mine.  I sued the IRS and won, but to make a long story short, the IRS still threatened to take all my belongings WHILE the lawsuit was in force, and I threatened them back.  I told them that if they take my stuff while the lawsuit was pending, they would never again see the agent who stole my stuff because I would kill him or her and stuff that agent in the back of my car and head for the nearest or furthest reservoir and dump the body. It's that or leave me alone.  After I won the lawsuit, I fully expected to find their threat letters, but was surprised not to find them. If I had, I would have let them "have it."
Feb 26, 2012 5:38PM

To Bs: it might be, depends on what it is for. Don't get your tax advice from here, go to a professional.

To John: They don't make the stupid rules (the politicians do and they don't understand them).  Then they give them a budget insufficient to hire enough qualified people to inforce the rules that make no sense whatsoever.  Then they waste the money the IRS collects for them.

Feb 26, 2012 9:32AM

I recieved a settlement from a lawsuit. Is this taxable as income?


Mar 1, 2012 2:47PM

I know of a woman who made 46k this past year, paid ZERO in taxes and received over  $5,000 dollars in a "refund"  from the IRS!  Now how does one get a "refund" of tax money that one NEVER paid into in the first place?


Let's do the math:  Gross Taxable wages = $46,000

                              Tax free Child support = $  8,400


                                     Approx. Net Cash = $54,400

                                Taxes Paid/Deducted = $   0


                                        Refund Check   = $  5,250


Is the "refund" the same as "Welfare"?  Did she "earn" that $5,250?  I guess it's FREE money some people get.  I had to pay my taxes, a total of over $14,000 dollars to the IRS and $4,200 to the State of my highly stressed job earnings of my $75,000 annual salary!  My annual net this past year was LESS then what she pocketed.  After all the "other" deductions I had, i.e. Social Security taxes, medicare, etc...  I netted around $48,000, over $10,000 LESS then she did!


What the hell is wrong with this picture? No wonder this country is so badly in debt! The U.S. is a broke a$$ governrment!


This really bites!

Mar 1, 2012 12:12PM

Be aware the arkansas department of education has a major issue of saying you have student loans.


my refund got clipped and the dept of education shows i went to two schools in the 90's.   Too bad both schools don't exist any more one closed in 1994 and the other went bankrupt in 1992  the department of education shows defaulted loans but i cant provide documentation that i never was a student...


Great system....Ha.Ha

Mar 1, 2012 2:54PM
Bela Ghostly, and other idiots how short is your memory??? oh yea obama is over spending! maybe he should be like bush and have two wars and one that has nothing to do with terror but WMD's (thats the best story they had) that oh didnt exisit.

i'm not even directly for obama just for anyone you people would hate to see in office.... when i say you people i mean people that are so mentally challenged they bitch about someone over spending when thier own lead of the retards when in office spent trillions and lost thousands of american lives.

yea damn obama......
Mar 1, 2012 1:32PM
Just a heads up to all veterans.  If you owe a balance for care received through the VA, the IRS will deduct the full amount owed from your refund.  I thought it was a mistake when I got my deposit and  money was missing.  I did get a letter saying my balance owed was deducted several days later .Now you know.  Thanks for your service fellow vets! 
Mar 1, 2012 3:18PM
Hey  Bela Ghostly, his name is Obama, President Obama to be exact. Who in the hell is Obombo, I am just sick and tired of hearing you Republicans cry and blame everything on President Obama. Some of you  idiots blame him for the first gulf war, yeah the 1st gulf war that started in what 1991, and also for Bill Buckner missing that ball back in what, the 1986 World Series. Another Idiot post that our gas prices are at an all time high. Really, what was the gas before BUSH left, um, I think here in the Houston area it was knocking on $4 a gallon. Thats about .60 higher than what it is right now. What are you guys going to do in 4 yrs when he, President Obama is not in office anymore, oh wait, you guys will say that's how he left us right. 
Mar 1, 2012 9:09AM
Feb 26, 2012 12:17PM

To Bs: No, it is not taxable. Enjoy it or save it. The interest on it is taxable.

To john: No the IRS are not crooks........ They are how ever some of the most

incompetent Government employees you will ever meet.

To Bella: Why is it that all republicans fail to remember the spending habits of the last few

republican presidents? Ever heard of reganomics?

Oh! I forgot that's what makes you republicans!

Bet YOU don't have any money either in off shore banks or the local one's either.

I do have a question for you though. How do you manage to eat with all of your income

going to the one percent and the government? Can't be any left for food.

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