Tax refunds amounting to over $1 billion are awaiting an estimated 1 million people who still have not filed a federal income tax return for 2008.
To collect, taxpayers and preparers must file a return with the Internal Revenue Service no later than Tuesday, April 17. The IRS estimated that half of the potential tax refunds are for more than $600.
In some cases, the IRS acknowledged, people may not have filed because they had too little income in 2008 to require filing a tax return, even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a tax return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim a refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury, which could use some extra money to deal with the spiraling budget deficit.
The law requires that 2007 return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by April 17. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.
The IRS also noted that taxpayers seeking a previously unclaimed 2008 refund may still have their refunds held if they have not filed tax returns for 2009 and 2010. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS, or they may be used to offset unpaid child support or past-due federal debts such as student loans.
By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 2008, the IRS noted. Some people, especially those who did not receive an economic stimulus payment in 2008, may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit.
Current and prior-year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling toll-free (800) TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2008, 2009 or 2010 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. If these efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by ordering it on IRS.gov, filing Form 4506-T, or by calling (800) 908-9946.
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