Internal Revenue Service estimates show that refunds totaling almost $760 million may be waiting for 918,600 taxpayers who did not file a federal income tax return for 2010.
In Georgia, that’s more than $28 million in unclaimed refunds for nearly 23,000 people and in South Carolina, more than $10 million in unclaimed refunds are waiting for nearly 8,000 people, the federal agency said in a news release.
The IRS estimates that the median unclaimed refund for tax-year 2010 is $539 in Georgia and $532 in South Carolina, each of which can be collected if outstanding returns are filed with the federal government no later than April 15.
“Time is running out if you want to get your refund,” IRS spokesman Mark Green said. “Taxpayers should review their 2010 statements for refundable credits and withholdings. We want all taxpayers to get the refund they’re due.”
In cases of an unfiled return, federal law provides most taxpayers a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund before the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.
The law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by April 15 and there is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.
Green reminded taxpayers who have not yet filed a 2010 return, a large percent of which includes college students and senior citizens, that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2011 and 2012.
In addition, he said refunds will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or their state tax agency, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.
Green said some people might not have filed with the IRS in 2010 because they did not have enough income to require a return, despite having taxes withheld from wages or making quarterly estimated payments.
That should be different for 2013 returns.
IRS records show taxpayers in Georgia and South Carolina have seen a 2 to 3 percent increase in refund amounts from 2012, respectively.
Green said the increase in refunds is largely due to the earned-income tax credit. Last year, more than 27 million taxpayers received $63 billion in earned income credits for the 2012 tax year, with payments averaging $2,335.
Green said one in five eligible workers fails to claim their earned-income tax credit, which is available for low to moderate income working individuals and couples – particularly those with children – who earned less than $51,567 in 2013.
“As the tax deadline nears, don’t panic because help is still available for you to file an accurate tax return,” said Elaine Wegrzyn, enrolled agent at the H&R Block office on Bobby Jones Expressway in Augusta.
For late filers, Wegrzyn reminded taxpayers of the “top four things” to remember. H&R Block, which coined the phrase “Get your billion back America!” in reference to unclaimed refund money,” has 14 offices and 150 tax professionals in the Augusta area.
• Claim tax breaks that expired in 2013 – Tax breaks claimed by teachers, homeowners and students are among the tax breaks that expired Dec. 31, 2013. The tax breaks can still be claimed on 2013 returns, but there is no guarantee they will be extended for 2014 or beyond
• Take into account life changes – Identify any life changes that may have an impact on your tax return – getting married, having a baby, buying or selling a home, sending a child off to college or retiring.
• Check eligibility to claim casualty losses – Victims of the area’s ice storm might be able to claim a casualty loss for any damages not covered by insurance. Claiming a casualty loss as an itemized deduction could mean significant tax savings.
• Know what it really means to file an extension – An extension gives taxpayers an extra six months to file a tax return. Filing for an extension does not extend the time to pay a tax liability. To avoid penalties and interest, taxpayers must pay any balance due by April 15.
“Nearly half of Americans were not aware they would have taxes due April 15 even if they file an extension,” Wegrzyn said.