- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The Internal Revenue Service said yesterday that $73 million in tax refunds did not reach more than 84,000 people, mainly because the post office could not locate them.

The average unclaimed refund is worth about $871 and can be obtained by calling 800/829-4477 or visiting IRS Web site at https://www.irs.gov.

“Our goal is to get this money back in the hands of the people it belongs to,” IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said.

Refund checks can bounce back to the IRS for a variety of reasons. Most often a taxpayer moves, but sometimes the address is incomplete. Taxpayers who change their names after a marriage or divorce can sometimes encounter problems with mailed refunds.

This year, dislocations caused by Hurricane Katrina may have caused some refund checks to go astray. The IRS said it will speed up searches for missing refunds owed to Gulf Coast residents and issue a new refund check when the original cannot be found.

Those taxpayers can use the special toll-free IRS hot line — 866/562-5227 — that the IRS set up for Katrina victims to track down a missing check.

Others should first check their records to make sure an expected refund never arrived.

A feature on the IRS Web site allows taxpayers to check the status of a refund and, in some cases, resolve the problem that prevented its delivery.

The tool called “Where’s My Refund?” asks taxpayers for some information, including Social Security number, refund amount and filing status, such as single, head of household or married couple.

Taxpayers who have moved and want to make sure the IRS has the correct address can fill out Form 8822, available on the IRS Web site or by calling 800/TAX-FORM.

Taxpayers without access to the Internet can call the IRS toll-free at 800/829-1040 to claim a refund that never arrived.

In most cases, a taxpayer only has to provide a current address. In some cases, if a check got lost and never got returned to the IRS, the taxpayer might have to go through a claims process. Those problems are handled case by case, sometimes over the phone or sometimes with additional paperwork.

Refunds returned to the IRS are not stored. The checks are destroyed, but the amount due remains on taxpayers’ accounts. When the taxpayer claims the refund and provides a current address, the new check is printed.

Anyone due a refund who does not call the IRS to request a check can expect to get the refund next year after filing a tax return. IRS computers will note the new address and automatically generate a new refund check.

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