Internal Revenue Service officials are hunting for nearly 100,000 people. But for a change, those people should be hoping the IRS finds them.
The government isn't trying to squeeze more taxes out of this missing group. It's the other way around: The IRS is trying to return more than $153 million in undelivered tax-refund checks, which couldn't be delivered because of mailing-address errors. The checks average $1,547 apiece.
This is a perennial problem—and one that can easily be avoided.
Taxpayers "can put an end to lost, stolen or undelivered checks by choosing direct deposit" when they file their federal income-tax returns either on paper or electronically, the IRS says. Last year, more than 78.4 million taxpayers chose to get their refund by direct deposit, according to IRS data.
Another suggestion: File your return electronically.
Electronic filing generally results in fewer errors on tax returns. It also means taxpayers typically will get their refunds more quickly than if they file paper returns and rely on snail mail. Last year, nearly eight out of 10 taxpayers filed electronically, according to the IRS.
If you were expecting a refund check and fear it might have been returned to the IRS as undeliverable, go to the IRS website (www.irs.gov) and use the "Where's My Refund?" tool. This will give you the status of your refund. In some cases, it will also provide "instructions on how to resolve delivery problems."
Taxpayers also can get a phone version of "Where's My Refund" at 800-829-1954.
One warning: Watch out for con artists posing as IRS agents. At first glance, some phony emails may look like they're from the IRS.
"The public should be aware that the IRS does not contact taxpayers by email to alert them of pending refunds and does not ask for personal or financial information through email," the IRS says. These are "common phishing scams." Ignore them. The IRS says it "urges taxpayers receiving 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."