SBS NOVA | Taxpayers to forfeit more than $1 billion in refunds Are you one of them?
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Taxpayers to forfeit more than $1 billion in refunds Are you one of them?

Taxpayers to forfeit more than $1 billion in refunds Are you one of them?

The IRS disclosed there will be more than $1 billion in federal tax refunds forfeited this year if taxpayers don’t claim them by April 18.

Refunds have to be claimed within three years or they are forfeited to the government. The unclaimed $1 billion comes from about 1 million taxpayers who still haven’t filed returns for the 2013 tax year. Often the people who leave these refunds behind are young adults, college students, senior citizens and low-income taxpayers.

Why refunds go unclaimed

Forgetting withholdings. Even if you have very little income, your employer may have taken some money from your paycheck for federal tax withholdings. The only way to get it back is to file a tax return.

Not claiming refundable credits. Many tax credits are “refundable credits.” This means you can receive a refund even if you owe no income tax. Common examples available to students and parents are the earned income tax credit and the premium tax credit.

Missing information. Some people don’t file because they’ve lost the information they need. If the reason you can’t file is because you lost your data, you can request an online transcript from the IRS that will give you your wage, income and other tax information. You can also mail the IRS a Form 4506-T to get paper copies mailed to you. However, this will take between five and 10 business days, so don’t delay.

Fear of penalties. Sometimes taxpayers fail to file old returns because they think the IRS may penalize them. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are owed a refund.

Get your money

The IRS is great at tracking down people who owe them money, but not so great at reaching out to people they owe. This irony should motivate you to get your money back. To be safe, send your 2013 return by certified mail early enough so that the IRS receives it by April 18. Any refunds that aren’t claimed within the three-year due date will be gone forever, swallowed up by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Remember, just because you are not required to file a tax return doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. There are more than a billion dollars in unclaimed refunds – make sure you get yours.