Missing Money

By Alex Distefano

Posted March 1, 2012 in News
It’s that time of year again. It’s less than two months away and tax season will be in full effect. But, as the IRS prepares to be flooded with our federal tax returns next month, the agency faces another issue in Riverside County and other jurisdictions across the country: unclaimed tax refunds.

But this type of problem is on the decline, according to IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino.
It seems that around 650 people living in Riverside County have yet to receive their federal income tax returns, according to several media reports. Reportedly, there are roughly 100,000 unprocessed IRS tax checks throughout the nation, with the average amount per check totaling under $1,200. According to the IRS, there are about 13,000 unprocessed checks in California, checks which were mailed to their respective recipients but, for whatever reason, were returned back to the government.

“People should not be alarmed,” Tulino says. “This does happen each year, but it is not difficult to contact us, either through mail, phone or email. Obviously, now more people are choosing to file electronically and with direct deposit—which can avoid these types of problems.”

“Over the years, we’ve seen the percentage of people using electronic filing go up by close to 80 percent, and now three out of every four people chose direct deposit for their refunds,” he adds. “This makes sens; it is more convenient.”

Tulino insists that the IRS has every intention of making sure outstanding refunds end up in the right hands.

“This is why we have been, and will be reaching out to the media as tax time gets closer,” he says.

Some of the common reasons or errors that lead to unclaimed or unprocessed checks include old address and contact information.

But the money’s safe. Tulino promises.

“If we don’t have your current address on file, the checks owed to your refund will be filed, and can be cashed at any point in the future,” he says.

Joseph Gutierrez, a certified tax accountant with the Tax Group Center, also says that this problem will keep declining over the years.

“We work with taxpayers, all over the country, and only a handful over the past few years have contacted us about not getting their refunds back,” Gutierrez tells the Weekly.

“Most people e-file their taxes nowadays, so I would say that although it does happen, in our experience it is rare,” he says. Plus, since it’s been a tough few past years, people usually know the IRS owes them [money] and they are on top of it.”

Legally, the IRS is not allowed to keep any uncollected refunds.
“We have always found that the money usually always ends up getting back to you eventually,” Gutierrez says.
So, if by chance you think that you might be owed money from a prior tax filing, the best thing to do, according to Tulino, is to contact the IRS.

Oh, and on the topic of potential problems and clusters related to your taxes, there are a lot of frauds and scammers out there that prey on unsuspecting taxpayers during this pay-Uncle-Sam-what-he’s-due season.

“If you are getting an email from the IRS in your inbox, the chances are [that] it is a scam,” Tulino warns. “We are not sending out any emails without prior initiation. We don’t contact individuals this way, or through social media—that’s called “phishing” and it’s a trick to get your personal information for identity theft.”

“As a general rule, never give out your passwords, account numbers or any other personal financial information over email or social network sites,” he adds.

Now go pay your taxes


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