The IRS reported on Thursday that nearly 1 million taxpayers never filed a 2009 return, leaving a total of $917 million in tax refunds unclaimed.
The amounts involved are fairly large in many cases, with about half of the unclaimed refunds estimated to involve $500 or more. California and Texas had the biggest number of unfiled returns, but people from every state and the District of Columbia are on the list.
If you're concerned that you'll get in trouble for being so late, don't be. As long as you're due a refund, you won't owe any penalties.
What You Might Have Missed
Part of the problem is that many taxpayers don't realize that even if they aren't required to file a return, they still need to do so in order to claim refunds that are owed to them. One of the biggest items people miss out on is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can provide refunds even if you don't have any income tax liability.
If you're concerned that you'll get in trouble for being so late with your returns, don't be. As long as you're actually due a refund, you won't owe any penalties for filing a late return, as the calculations for determining a tax penalty are based on the tax you owed.
So if you never filed a 2009 tax return, be sure to look into whether you could get a tax refund back if you filed. Otherwise, what should be free money coming back to you will end up going to the federal government instead.