[Reprinted from New York Newsday, November 28, 2000]

IRS Checking Out Refunds

More than $8M from 1999 unclaimed by New Yorkers

By James Bernstein Staff Writer

   The Internal Revenue Service may be looking for you - but don't worry, it's not bad news.

   That's because the Feds are trying to track down more than 8,500 New Yorkers owed 1999 federal tax refunds. In all, there's more than $8 million available in unclaimed checks - ranging from $66,918 to a buck, with an average value of $940 versus $734 nationally.

   "This isn't chicken feed," said Kevin McKeon, an IRS spokesman for the New York metro area. "It's a nice pot of money and we want to make sure that everyone who's entitled gets theirs." 

   In Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, there are 4,187 undelivered refund checks, the IRS said. There are 3,079 checks available in Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Westchester and Rockland Counties. Nationwide, 90,000 filers are due over $67.4 million.

   (The full list of New Yorkers due refunds is on Newsday's Web site at www.newsday.com/ebiz.)

   McKeon said those owed money had filed their federal returns, which were processed by the IRS. Then "we mailed out the checks to whatever address we had for them, but for various reasons, the post office was not able to deliver them," McKeon said.

   Taxpayers miss receiving their refunds for a variety of reasons, McKeon said. In most cases, they've moved and failed to notify either the IRS or the Postal Service of a change of address. If a check was returned because the recipient died, McKeon said,a taxpayer's estate can claim the refund.

   But don't people miss getting the money owed them?

  "We know people are busy," McKeon said. "Maybe it just gets past them."

   Nationally, the total number of undeliverable refunds declined by more than $4.6 million, from a total of $72 million a year ago. McKeon said this is because more taxpayers are choosing to have their refund checks deposited directly into a bank account.

   Nearly 30 million people elected to use direct deposit for their refunds last year, up from 23.5 million the previous year.

   McKeon said if refunds are not claimed, the funds revert to the U.S. Treasury. The IRS, by law, is not allowed to pay interest on the undelivered checks.

   Overall, the number of unclaimed checks is small, McKeon said. In 2000, for example, the IRS received 128 million individual tax returns and issued over 91 million refunds.