taxes

Does the IRS still have your refund?

What could you do with $1,148?

That's the average amount of the tax refund checks that were returned in 2009 to the Internal Revenue Service because they were undeliverable.

Of course, that's an average amount. Your unclaimed check might be less, but then again, it could be more. And any amount of money would be nice, especially with the holidays just around the corner.

In all, the IRS has 107,831 refund checks that total $123.5 million of missing money.

The main reason the checks came back is simple: The taxpayers moved after filing their 2008 tax returns and forgot to give the IRS their new addresses.

In some cases, though, the addresses on the forms were illegible, causing the checks to be issued to wrong addresses that then bounced back to Uncle Sam.

Let the IRS know where you live

Whatever the reason, the IRS has money that could be yours. All you have to do is let the IRS know where to send it.

The simplest method is to provide the IRS the correct address electronically, via the agency's refund tracking Web page, "Where's my refund?"

Taxpayers checking on a refund via phone at (800) 829-1954 also will be given instructions on how to update their addresses during that call.

The IRS also still accepts the mailed Form 8822, Change of Address, but this method will take longer to get refunds resent.

Tracking down your refund

When using either the IRS's Web page or phone option, have your 2008 return handy. To access the online or phone refund locators you'll have to provide your Social Security number, filing status and the amount of the refund shown on your tax return.

If the money has come back to the IRS, during the tracking process you will be prompted to enter your correct mailing information.

However, if you moved and simply want to use the online or phone option to let the IRS know about your new digs, you're out of luck. You'll have to use the old-fashioned Form 8822 to ensure your future returns make it to your new home.

Collect directly

The IRS deals with returned refunds every year, and every year the agency cites the undeliverable checks as a reason to have refund amounts directly deposited into an account.

Almost 73 million filers used direct deposit in 2008. This was an almost 10 percent increase over the previous filing year. Some of the added direct deposits can be attributed to last year's rebate checks.

However, the IRS says that regardless of what type of tax payment is issued, it will get to taxpayers faster and electronic delivery is more secure and convenient. There is no check to get lost -- or returned as undeliverable -- and no special trip to the bank to cash or deposit the check.

To request direct deposit next filing season, simply follow the instructions on the "refund" line of your tax return. You can have a refund directly deposited regardless of which return -- 1040EZ, 1040A or 1040 -- you file.

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