WASHINGTON, D.C. (NOVEMBER 30, 2011)
BY MICHAEL COHN, ACCOUNTING TODAY
The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday that it has $153.3 million in undelivered tax refund checks waiting to be sent to 99,123 taxpayers across the country.
In what has turned into an annual ritual for the service, the IRS said it has a fortune waiting in its coffers that could not be delivered to taxpayers because of mailing address errors. Taxpayers can still claim their refunds, though, and can probably use a little help from their accountants. The average size of an undelivered refund check this year is $1,547, which makes a nice stocking stuffer for the holidays.
Taxpayers who believe their refund check may have been inadvertently returned to the IRS as undelivered should use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on IRS.gov. The tool will provide the status of their refund and, in some cases, instructions on how to resolve the delivery problems with the IRS and the local post office.
Taxpayers checking on the status of their still-pending refunds over the phone will receive instructions on how to update their addresses. Taxpayers can access a telephone version of “Where’s My Refund?” by calling 1-(800) 829-1954.
Only a small percentage of checks mailed by the IRS are returned as undelivered, the agency noted, but taxpayers can put an end to lost, stolen or undelivered checks by choosing direct deposit when they file their tax returns, either on paper or electronically. Last year, more than 78.4 million taxpayers chose to receive their refund through direct deposit. Taxpayers can receive refunds directly through their bank account, split a tax refund into two or three financial accounts, or more recently buy a savings bond with the money.
The IRS also strongly encourages taxpayers to file their tax returns electronically, because e-file is supposed to eliminate the risk of lost paper returns. The agency has also begun requiring most professional tax preparers to file electronically.
E-file also reduces errors on tax returns and speeds up refunds. Nearly eight out of 10 taxpayers chose e-file last year, the IRS noted. E-file, combined with direct deposit, should help most taxpayers and tax preparers avoid refund problems.
The IRS also warned the public that it does not contact taxpayers by email to alert them of pending refunds and does not ask for personal or financial information through email. Such messages are common phishing scams, the IRS noted.
The agency urges taxpayers who receive such messages not to release any personal information, reply, open any attachments or click on any links to avoid malicious code that can infect their computers.
The best way for an individual to verify if she or he has a pending refund is by going directly to the IRS’s Web site, IRS.gov, and using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool.