Refunds waiting for taxpayers to claim them

Sunday, November 19, 2006 By KAIJA WILKINSON

The Internal Revenue Service is trying to find nearly 180 Mobile and Baldwin county residents or former residents to deliver refunds totaling more than $178,000. Dan Boone, IRS spokesman for the Alabama and Tennessee region, blamed Hurricane Katrina for the growth in unclaimed refund checks.

"A lot of people were not where we expected them to be," he said.

Last year in Alabama, 994 checks totaling $772,000 were unclaimed; this year, there were 1,377 checks totaling $1.55 million.

Mobile ranks as the No. 3 area in the state in terms of both unclaimed checks and the amount of uncollected refunds. There were 111 unclaimed refunds totaling $106,434 in the county.

Baldwin County addresses accounted for 65 unclaimed checks totaling $71,658. Baldwin ranked fifth for highest number of undelivered refunds and seventh in terms of dollar amount, with an average of $1,102.

Boone said larger metro areas typically have more unclaimed checks, but the average amounts have little to do with income. Regardless of income, many taxpayers like to withhold more than they owe, he said.

"Even though the IRS encourages people to match their withholding to their liability, many people like to have a lot withheld as a sort of forced savings account."

Federal disclosure law does not allow the IRS to list the names of taxpayers who are due checks, but the IRS is permitted to release the list to the media, Boone said. The Alabama list is available online at www.al.com under the heading "Unclaimed Tax Refunds."

As it does every year, the Internal Revenue Service has set up both online and phone services to help taxpayers claim their refunds, he said.

People whose undeliverable check was issued in the last year may update their mailing addresses on the "Where's my Refund?" section along the left side of the Web site IRS.gov.

To use the feature, taxpayers must enter Social Security number, filing status and refund amount from the 2005 return.

They may call 800-829-1954 and follow the prompts to learn the status of a refund, though addresses cannot be updated at that number. If a person wants to update an address, Boone said to call 800-829-1040 and speak to an IRS representative.

Boone said he is not sure how many people come forward to claim their checks during the campaign, but that the toll-free number gets a lot of calls and the Web site gets a lot of hits.

"If your name is on the list and you don't claim (your check), next year when you file a return we would send the return for this year and last year," said Boone. "Typically by that time all the undelivered refunds have been claimed. There are just a very few that carry over from year to year."

source: www.al.com

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