I think I’m like most people in the fact that I hate to lose money. My philosophy is I work hard for it and I don’t want to lose it. I bring this up because of a recent announcement by the Internal Revenue Service that they have over $1 billion in unclaimed refunds for 2011. Those refunds will soon become property of the U.S. government unless those taxpayers affected do something.
According to the IRS there are over a million households that did not file a tax return in 2011 but are entitled to refunds. For example, someone could have been a student, only worked part time and felt they didn’t have to file a return because nothing was owed. However, if they file they would be entitled to a refund of their withholding. In addition, low and moderate income people could be eligible for things such as the earned income tax credit but unless they file a return, they will not get it. According to the IRS the average refund owed is nearly $700.
Although time is ticking, there is still time to file a 2011 tax return and receive a refund. Therefore, if you have not filed a 2011 tax return and you are entitled to a refund you no longer have time to delay; you must get that return in now. For those of you who choose not to file a return, the U.S. government thanks you for your voluntary contributions.
Tax refunds are just one place where people leave money on the table. Unfortunately, it is not the only place. Literally, states have billions of dollars in lost and forgotten assets. Money left in dormant bank accounts, valuables left in safety deposit boxes and uncashed checks are just a few of the sources of unclaimed cash that the states have. However, just like with the IRS you have to be proactive to get it.
In order to determine whether you have any unclaimed assets, the first place you should go is the Michigan Department of the Treasury website. By going to www.michigan.gov/treasury and clicking on “unclaimed property,” you can do a free search of the state’s database to determine whether you have any unclaimed property or not. If your name shows up, then the state has a relatively easy procedure to claim your assets.
Another place that you can check is www.missingmoney.com. This is a national database endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administers that allows you to search for assets throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, another place you can go to is www.unclaimed.org. This site connects you to each state’s database. The bottom line, if you have unclaimed assets there is no reason to leave them on the table; you need to be proactive.
There are also other assets that you may have misplaced or forgotten about but you can still claim. For example, you may have been a participant in a pension plan but the company went out of business, or for some reason a former employer can’t find you. In many of those situations, the monies go to the Pension Benefit Guaranteed Corporation, a government agency. You can see if you are entitled to any pension benefits by going to PBGC’s unclaimed pension database. In addition, let’s not forget that many of us have savings bonds that we have long forgotten about. Once again, you can do a search for those assets as well through the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The bottom line, we all work hard for our money and there is no reason to leave it on the table. Therefore, before the nice weather comes to Michigan why not spend a few minutes to do some searches to determine whether you have any unclaimed or forgotten assets. After all, the money you find looks better in your pocket than anyone else’s particularly, the government’s.