Georgians missing out on $7 million in refunds

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Take note. This may be one time when you will want to give the Internal Revenue Service a call.

IRS officials say that 4,700 Georgians, including a handful in the Metro Albany area, have yet to claim refunds from the most recent tax year.

Worth a total of roughly $7 million, the unclaimed refunds were returned to the IRS because of errors in mailing addresses, IRS Spokesperson Mark Green said.

"In Georgia, the average undeliverable refund is $1,522," Green said. "Last year, the average was $1,233. We'd like to get this money back to taxpayers as quickly as possible. All we need is an updated address and we can reissue the check."

In Dougherty County, 55 people were listed by the IRS as not having claimed their refunds. There were two in Lee County, four in Worth County, four in Terrell County and two in Baker County. To see the list, click on this story at albanyherald.com.

According to a news release from the IRS, 111,893 refunds totaling $164.6 million were returned to the IRS nationwide.

IRS officials say that the average dollar amount for returned refunds rose by almost 22 percent this year, possibly because of recent changes in tax law that introduced new credits or expanded existing credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Green said that while reasons checks end up back at the IRS vary, many times a life change -- such as a marriage or divorce -- results in an address change and the taxpayer does not notify the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service of relocation. A check sent to their last known address is returned to the IRS because a refund check, by law, cannot be sent to a forwarded address.

If a refund check is returned to the IRS as undelivered, the taxpayer can generally update his or her address with the "Where's My Refund?" tool on IRS.gov. The tool also enables a taxpayer to check the status of a refund. A taxpayer must submit his or her Social Security number, filing status and the amount of refund shown on the 2009 tax return. The tool will provide the status of the refund and, in some cases, instructions on how to resolve delivery problems.

Taxpayers checking on a refund 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.

IRS officials are pushing taxpayers to use direct deposit when they file their paper or electronic returns in an effort to prevent refund checks from being returned to the agency.

"Taxpayers can receive refunds directly into their bank, split a tax refund into two or three financial accounts or even buy a savings bond," the press release states.

While IRS officials are trying to get the word out about the unclaimed refunds, they are also urging the public to vigilant against possible scams.

According to the IRS, the agency does not contact taxpayers by e-mail to alert them of pending refunds and such messages are common identity theft scams.

The agency urges taxpayers not to release any personal information, reply, open any attachments or click on any links to avoid malicious code that will infect their computers. The best way for an individual to verify if she or he has a pending refund is going directly to IRS.gov and using the "Where's My Refund?" tool, agency officials say.