Washington (Feb. 10, 2004) -- Unclaimed refunds totaling more than $2.5 billion are awaiting nearly two million people who failed to file a 2000 income tax return, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS estimates that half of those who could claim refunds would receive more than $529. In order to collect the money, taxpayers must file a return with the IRS no later than April 15, 2004. In some cases, the IRS said 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 clock is running if you want to get your refund," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. "People who aren't required to file sometimes overlook that they had tax withheld."

In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. Taxpayers seeking a 2000 refund must have filed for 2001 and 2002 or their refund checks will be held. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS and may be used to satisfy unpaid child support or past-due federal debts such as student loans.

-- WebCPA staff

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