Unclaimed refunds totaling more than $2 billion are awaiting about 1.7 million people who failed to file an income tax return for 2001, according to the Internal Revenue Service. However, in order to collect the money, a return must be filed with the IRS no later than April 15, 2005. The IRS estimates that half of those who could claim refunds would receive more than $484. In some cases, individuals had taxes withheld from their wages or made payments against their taxes out of self-employed earnings, but had too little income to require filing a tax return. Some taxpayers may also be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit. "The window is closing for 2001 refunds," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said. "As soon as you send us your tax return, you'll get your money. But if you don't file, you won't get anything." In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. For 2001 returns, the window closes on April 15, 2005. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, postmarked and mailed by that date. There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

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