Maybe they move a lot. Or maybe they’re just forgetful. Whatever the case, the IRS finds itself trying to track down thousands of taxpayers every year who fail to collect their refund checks.
In 2011 alone, the agency reported that 99,123 checks remained uncollected by November, mostly due to what it called “mailing address errors.”
If you think you might be one of the unfound, it could be worth your while to do some checking – the average unclaimed check amounted to more than $1,500.
You have two options for finding out whether there’s a check with your name on it. Go to the IRS’s Where’s My Refund website or call 1-800-829-1954. You’ll need to know your Social Security number, your filing status, and the exact amount of your refund to determine your account’s status and redirect a check to an address that’s good for you, so dig up a copy of your tax return before you call or log on.
That, of course, only covers people who actually filed returns. Millions more Americans – particularly low-income people – might qualify for refunds if they filed tax returns, thanks to programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit that can generate refunds even for people who don’t make enough to owe any income tax.
If you haven’t filed a tax return in the past three years, it might be worth your while to fill out a return just to see whether you might have money coming back. You have three years past the tax due date to file for a refund for any tax year, and there’s no penalty for filing late if your return generates a refund rather than a tax bill.