Ho! Ho! Ho! The IRS has leftover money this year!

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 jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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