Who would have guessed a happy holiday story would come out of the federal government? One has. Santa’s helpers at the Internal Revenue Service have more than 153 million bucks they’re itching to distribute.
Although this announcement comes as the holidays approach, the cash isn’t a Christmas gift from Uncle Sam. It’s tax-return money the IRS hasn’t been able to deliver, and more than $6 million of it is due to taxpayers in Pennsylvania. About $250,000 might be due Northeast Philadelphia residents.
So, if you didn’t get your federal income-tax refund this year, you could be one of the more than 99,000 taxpayers nationwide who didn’t get theirs because of mailing-address errors, the IRS stated in a Nov. 30 news release.
More than 160 of those people live in Northeast Philly. It’s money they probably could use, too. The IRS said the average undelivered check is $1,547, an amount that could buy a lot of Christmas cheer, or cool off some overheated credit cards.
If you think you’re due an IRS check should, use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool at IRS.gov. The tool provides the status of a refund, and also might provide a taxpayer with instructions on how to have that money delivered. There’s also a telephone version of “Where’s My Refund?” at 1-800-829-1954.
IRS spokesman David Stewart said these 2010 income-tax refund checks that could not be delivered — or were stolen — sometimes are forgotten by taxpayers, or they may fail to contact the IRS for some other reason.
The almost 100,000 people who didn’t get their tax refunds represent only a small percentage of the taxpayers who got them, the IRS said. More than 78 million don’t worry about that because they have their refunds directly deposited in their bank accounts. E-filing — filing electronically — helps speed along refunds too, the IRS said.
The less-than-cheery side of this Christmas greeting is that there are con artists who will try making some dishonest bucks from people awaiting refunds, so beware of those electronic messages on your computer that purport to be from the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS does not contact people by e-mail to tell them of pending refunds, nor does it ever ask for personal or financial information by e-mail. The agency recommends that people not even opening such “phishing” messages.
Law-enforcement agencies have been warning consumers for years not to give out personal information like birth dates, bank-account numbers or Social Security numbers to strangers. That information can be used by identity thieves to establish credit-card accounts or even get loans to run up debts and ruin credit ratings. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org