Does the IRS owe you $1,471?
Agency has $164.6 million in unclaimed refunds. If you're expecting a check, make sure the IRS has your correct address.
What could you do with $1,471?
That's the average amount of the tax refund checks that were returned in fiscal 2010 to the Internal Revenue Service because they were undeliverable.
Whether your unclaimed refund is less or more, any amount would be nice as your bills roll in.
In all, as of November 2010, the IRS had 111,893 refund checks totaling $164.6 million in missing money.
The main reason the checks were returned is simple: The taxpayers moved after filing their tax returns and forgot to give the IRS their new addresses.
In some cases, the addresses on people's tax forms were illegible, causing the checks to be issued to wrong addresses.
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Let the IRS know where you live
Whatever the reason, the IRS has money that could be yours. All you have to do is let the agency know where to send it.
The simplest method is to provide your address electronically, via the agency's refund-tracking Web page.
Taxpayers can also call 1-800-829-1954 to check on a refund and receive instructions on how to update an address.
And the IRS still accepts a mailed Form 8822 (.pdf download) for address changes, but this method will take longer.
Tracking down your refund
Go to the IRS website, http://www.irs.gov, to check the status of your refund. Click on "Where's My Refund." When using the Web or phone option, have your tax return handy. You'll need to provide your Social Security number, your filing status and the amount of the refund shown on your tax return.
If the money went back to the IRS, you will be prompted to enter your correct mailing information during the tracking process.
However, if you moved and simply want to use the online or phone option to let the IRS know about your new address, you're out of luck. You'll have to use Form 8822 to ensure future refunds make it to your new home.
The IRS deals with returned refunds every year, and every year the agency cites the undeliverable checks as a reason for people to have refunds deposited electronically into a bank account. This year, the agency also offered the option of receiving refunds on debit cards.
Here are four reasons more than 73 million taxpayers chose Direct Deposit in 2010:
- Security. Thousands of paper checks are returned to the IRS by the U.S. Post Office every year as undeliverable mail. Direct Deposit eliminates the possibility of your refund check being lost, stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable.
- Convenience. The money goes directly into your bank account. You won’t have to make a special trip to the bank to deposit the money yourself.
- Ease. Simply follow the instructions on your return. Make sure you enter the correct bank account and bank routing numbers on your tax form and you’ll receive your refund quicker than ever.
- Options You can deposit your refund into multiple accounts. With the split refund option, taxpayers can divide their refunds among as many as three checking or savings accounts and up to three different U.S. financial institutions. Use IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases), to divide your refund. A word of caution: Some financial institutions do not allow a joint refund to be deposited into an individual account. Check with your bank or other financial institution to make sure your Direct Deposit will be accepted.
Tips for direct deposit are available in IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. To get a copy of Publication 17 or Form 8888, visit the IRS Forms and Publications section at www.irs.gov or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
The IRS emphasizes that electronic delivery is more secure and convenient. There is no check to get lost -- or returned as undeliverable -- and there's no special trip to the bank to cash or deposit the check.
To request direct deposit next filing season, simply follow the instructions on the "refund" line of your tax return. You can have a refund deposited directly regardless of which return --- 1040EZ, 1040A or 1040 -- you file.
This article was reported by Kay Bell for Bankrate.com.
Updated Jan. 12, 2010
Updated April 29, 2011 by Jeff A. Schnepper
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