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IRS unclaimed refunds: The IRS owes you $1 billion (some of you, anyway)

Did you claim your refund? The IRS reports that $917 million in unclaimed refunds from 2009 will be theirs to keep as of April 15. If your paycheck withheld more than you owed, there's no penalty for filing your taxes late — but after three years, the feds get to keep your unclaimed refund.

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Taxpayers search through 2009 tax forms at the Illinois Department of Revenue in Springfield, Ill., April 15, 2010. The IRS has almost $1 billion in unclaimed refunds that will be theirs to keep, if delinquent filers don't submit their 2009 tax forms by April 15, 2013.

Seth Perlman/AP/File

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The IRS has $917 million in unclaimed tax refunds from 2009, and time is running out to claim them. If you didn't bother filing a federal tax return for 2009, that money might have your name on it.

The unclaimed refunds are owed to nearly 1 million people who failed to file returns for 2009. If that describes you, you have to file your 2009 returns by April 15 to claim your refund.

The IRS says that when taxpayers don't file returns, they have three years to claim refunds. After that, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

You aren't penalized for filing a late return, as long as it qualifies for a refund. But your refund may be delayed if you also failed to file returns for 2010 and 2011.

The government can also withhold tax refunds to settle unpaid federal and state taxes, as well as unpaid child support and past due student loans.

People in every state and the District of Columbia are owed refunds, including 100,700 people in California and 86,000 people in Texas, the IRS said. Most of the refunds exceed $500.

Some people may not have filed tax returns because they made too little money and weren't required to file, the IRS said. However, if they had federal income taxes withheld from their pay, those people may be entitled to refunds.

Also, many low- and middle-income people who didn't file returns may be missing out on the Earned Income Tax Credit. In 2009, a married couple with three or more children could earn up to $48,279 and qualify for the credit. Income thresholds are lower for couples and single filers with fewer children.

Online:

Unclaimed refunds by state: http://tinyurl.com/atk4kd7

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Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap


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