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Millions in undeliverable refunds

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

How many Christmas presents could you buy with $1,547?

That's the average amount of tax refund checks returned this year to the Internal Revenue Service because the U.S. Postal Service couldn't deliver them.

Now Uncle Sam wants to get the cash, which totals more than $153 million, to its rightful owners, all 99,123 of them.

Yep, more than 99,000 people filed returns knowing they would get a refund and then didn't follow up when the check didn't arrive. Wow! I wish I could blow off cash, especially my own money that I overpaid the IRS, that easily.

But this isn't a new occurrence. Every year the IRS gets back tens of thousands of snail-mailed refund checks.

In some cases the checks come back because the address the taxpayer entered on the return was wrong.

Remember those admonitions to double-check your return before you send it? That means reviewing not only line entries on your 1040, but also your Social Security numbers and, as 99,123 filers are learning, your address. If you transpose your street address digits, your check will go to the wrong house.

If you're lucky, the person living there will note that it's not their mail and give it back to the post office, which will send it back to the IRS.

If you're unlucky, the incorrect recipient of your check could try to cash it.

So make sure your address is correct.

OK. Your address is correct, but your handwriting is so bad, the IRS employees couldn't decipher it and entered it into the database incorrectly. No judging here; I can't read my own grocery lists half the time! But this is just another reason for doing your taxes via software. The forms are easier to read. And if you e-file them, the data bypasses the IRS entry clerks.

Finally, sometimes people file returns and then move before they get their checks. This is a common problem with college students.

Whatever the reason for the undeliverable refunds, the money is there, just waiting to be claimed. All the IRS needs is a correct address.

If some of that $153 million is yours, go to the IRS' online tracker Where's My Refund? It will give you the status of your refund and status of their refund and, in some cases, instructions on how to resolve delivery problems.

If you prefer the telephone, call the IRS' automated refund tracking toll-free phone line at (800)829-1954.

And next year, in addition to using tax software and e-filing, consider direct deposit.

Get the latest news of tax news, tips and tax planning advice by subscribing to Bankrate's free Weekly Tax Tip newsletter.

You also can follow me on Twitter at @taxtweet.

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14 Comments
JUDY HAMMER
January 03, 2012 at 1:09 am

me and my husband are disbaled and have to come up with back taxsbuy the6 of jan 'is you are a seure or disaled ,there is no heil were i live i have been here for 10 years evern if some how we sve the house my live up noth again thy have help all over for what ever you need. and if you in prove you home you dont get any cradit for it becasue you do pay taxs. it unfair think abauy it

Leola Cage
December 19, 2011 at 8:58 am

way back in the days the 50s and the early 60s and Many farm hands and Black field workers were so over worked and under paid and never received any tax benefits or never were they reimbursed for all the money that the farmers and land owners took out on them 'back then its a shame and now in 2011-2012 the average social security benefit is only $684 -to $700 dollars and maybe with a minus plus, that's a shame most people that are living and survive that depression or whatever it was back then is still being denied of what they really deserve --come on Uncle Sam 'The Baby Boomers has waited long enough give us more after all We have already earned it--Go after the recipients that inherited the Stolen land, and and all 'that poor people worked for,and some died working ,but never received a penny and Nor did their children,or grand children! (question)has the system been really fair with 'The old Salt of this country?

Leola Cage
December 19, 2011 at 8:24 am

I'hd been working ever since I was 14 years old! I started working in the cotton fields in Mississippi,when I was only 8 or 9 yrs old and at the age of 14 I ran away from home and went to Lowell, Mass 'to work as a maid and live in housekeeper for a very rich family,as my employer 'they would take from my weekly payroll check,and pay me the net amount 'They told me that the money was being deducted from my pay for income tax,social security disability,and medical insurance,,being of such a young age when I went to work away from home in(Mississippi)and wasn't aware of income taxes or anything else of the nature I just didn't questioned the fact and rolled with whatever The Levine's said cause if asked too many questions then I would be fired and have to return to Mississippi so I had to trust 'they 'knew what they were doing,and were telling me the right thing,so I never received a income tax check,or any other returns from my 2 plus years that I work for them as a maid--after that--I took a job in Oceanside,Longs Island N Y working for "The( Hornick ) I don't know if I"M spelling hornicks right but I'm close 'family as a maid/child caretaker/housekeeper,and work there until I was 19 years old,and become pregnant and could no longer work,then I returned to the south,and did many odd jobs 'Where Money was taken out of every check,but I never got a. W-2 or any other form to file taxes,just as when I worked on the farms in Mississippi,Lowell,Mass-and New york Long island``in Mississippi The plantation boss (Tom Wright Sr)and other alike him took out money on the field hands but never seen to it that Any of the withheld money was return,and that same thing was done to All my family!!they never received a dime for all the hard work they did and even to my Mom/Dad Brothers and sisters deceased now ,but I still wonder Where is Mines,,Yes IRS,or somebody Owes me Big time''so how and where do I get started??

JIM Z
December 03, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I PAID THE IRS 3000.00 THREE TIMES THAT I DID NOT OWE. AND THEY WANT IT AGAIN.