The IRS says the refunds are owed to people who didn't file a federal income tax return for 2010. But here's the catch: To collect the money, you've got to file a 2010 return with the IRS no later than Tuesday, April 15.
"We encourage students, part-time workers and others who haven't filed for 2010 to look into this before time runs out on April 15," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement.
Taxpayers in California and Texas stand to leave the most money on the table. As many as 86,500 people are owed nearly $70 million in California, for a median refund of $519 for some filers. An estimated 80,600 Texans are owed nearly $72 million, or a median $588 refund. And about 57,400 New Yorkers are owed more than $50 million for a median $623 refund.
Some workers may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return, even though taxes were withheld from their wages. Taxpayers generally have up to three years to claim a refund. After that, the money goes to the U.S. Treasury.
In case you're wondering, there's no penalty for filing a late return that qualifies for a refund.
Not to smash anyone's hopes, but the IRS says that if taxpayers seeking a 2010 refund haven't filed tax returns for 2011 and 2012 and they owe money to the IRS or their state tax agency, the 2010 refund will be applied to that debt. That money could also be used to satisfy unpaid child support or past-due student loans.
If you haven't filed a 2010 return, you stand to lose more than just your tax refund. The IRS says many low- and moderate-income workers may also be missing out on the Earned Income Tax Credit, worth as much as $5,666 in 2010.
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 2010, 2011 or 2012 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer.
Taxpayers can also get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by going to IRS.gov.
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