Vermont taxpayers, on the other hand, appear to be quite tax-conscientious. Only 1,700 residents in that New England state didn't file in 2009.
And Alaska's 5,000 nonfilers have the chance to hit the biggest individual 2009 tax refund jackpot. The median check in that western state is $658.
An annual problem
Tax law says a taxpayer has three years to file a return and get the associated refund. Since the 2009 tax year returns were due by the April 2010 deadline, that three-year window allows these forms to be filed by the April 2013 filing due date.
The time-shift tax filing is not unusual. Unclaimed tax refund money piles up every year.
Some people may not have made enough money in 2009 to require them to file a tax return. Others simply didn't get around to filing and because there's no penalty for not sending in a return when no tax is owed, they didn't get notices from the IRS.
Whatever the reason, individuals who don't file risk losing tax money that is theirs and possibly even more.
And remember that if you didn't make much money in 2009, you might be eligible to claim the earned income tax credit, or EITC, for that tax year when you finally send in the return.
The EITC is available to individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The 2009 tax year thresholds were:
- $13,440 ($18,440 if married filing jointly) for those with no qualifying children.
- $35,463 ($40,463 if married filing jointly) for people with one qualifying child.
- $40,295 ($45,295 if married filing jointly) for those with two qualifying children.
- $43,279 ($48,279 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children.
Don't forget 2010, 2011
But just getting up to date with your 2009 return might not be enough.
The IRS says 2009 refund checks might be held if the taxpayers who finally file that year's return also failed to file tax returns for 2010 and 2011.
Check your records. If you missed those subsequent years, too, get those forms to the IRS as soon as possible.
The IRS forms and publications section has a link to prior year tax returns. You can download the 2009, 2010 and 2011 filing materials there.