IRS and Treasury Owe Americans Billions


You may have hundreds or even thousands of your own dollars sitting in the coffers of the Internal Revenue Service, simply waiting for you. How might you ask? The IRS has about $123.5 million worth of refund checks from 2009 alone (107,831 total checks which gives you an average refund of $1,148) because (among other reasons) taxpayers move after they file their tax returns, but fail to update the IRS with their new address. Instructing the Postal Service to forward your mail will not work. It is IRS policy not to forward mail, and they obviously do not attempt to track you down in any way. It may seem absurd that someone would forget about possibly thousands of dollars, but it happens. People move often, and with the current state of the economy and high unemployment, people are moving even more to find jobs. And don’t forget, Americans, with two-income families, children obligations and other distractions, lead very busy lives and sometimes things slip their minds.

Nevertheless, if you want to claim that refund, you have a number of options. The slowest, but perhaps the best way, is to file Form 8822. By filing the change address form, not only will your 2009 refund be sent to you, but future refund checks will make it home as well. You can also make a request online or through their toll free number, but this request will only be good for that one refund. But, the best way to avoid this problem is direct deposit! Approximately 73 million taxpayers chose this option in 2008.

So if you finally realized that you didn’t get that refund check in the mail, go get it. It is your money after all. The Federal government is basically using it as an interest-free loan. Speaking of which, you might want to consider reviewing your exemption status with your employer in order to have less money deducted from your paycheck. There are two schools of thought with this issue. On the one hand, some people like getting more money taken out and love that “bonus” refund check arriving in the mail (or directly in their account). Others dislike the idea of allowing the government to use your money all year with no interest, so they reduce the amount taken out and try to break even on tax day. Either way, just don’t forget about your refund.


If you thought that $123.5 million was a lot of money owed by the IRS, you might be shocked to learn that the U.S. Treasury owes Americans about $17 billion (yes, with a b) in unredeemed Series E savings bonds sold from 1941 to 1980. Once again, like the IRS, the Treasury is not going to search out owners of old bonds to urge them to get their money. The main problem with these bonds is that they are actual physical certificates, which tend to get misplaced over the years. Stock certificates used to be the same way, but with advanced technology, now you very rarely actually see or possess a stock (of a publicly-traded company).

For bonds purchased after 1973, it is easy to see whether you or a family member might own one. Simply go to the Treasury website and search the database. But for older bonds, it isn’t so easy. These older records are not in searchable form, and are actually stored the old fashioned way, on microfilm. The government will search through them for you, but as you can expect, this is an extremely time consuming endeavor, so the more information you have regarding the bond, the better chances you have to actually seeing some of that cash. But what a nice surprise it would be.

Curtis & Curtis, P.C. is a full service law firm located in Jackson, Michigan providing superior legal services and advice to individuals, families and businesses throughout mid-Michigan since 1901.

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