You Might Want to File Tax Returns This Year: The IRS' $1 Billion It Owes Americans

Many people who don't have to file returns still have federal income taxes taken out of their paychecks -- in many cases, too much. In 2009, up to $1 billion in tax refunds went unclaimed in the U.S., including as much as $67 million in Florida alone. And the IRS is actually trying to give it back to you.

More than 70,000 Florida residents are eligible for a tax refund from 2009 that they didn't claim, according to the IRS. The average unclaimed return is $650, but this April is the deadline before all that money gets given straight to the United States Treasury. The IRS, in a way that avoids the risk that you actually might end up owing money too, explains that many low- and middle-income either didn't get their stimulus checks or didn't take all the deductions they could have:

By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 2008. Some people, especially those who did not receive an economic stimulus payment in 2008, may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit. In addition, many low-and moderate-income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds.

Check out the IRS webpage about this stuff for more information, and give a tax preparer a call. But -- this is South Florida, after all -- you've gotta dodge the scammers.

In the past two weeks, an Oakland Park crackdown on tax preparation offices has yielded five arrests, three tax preparer violations, one work permit violation, seven sign violations, and 15 fire code violations, the Broward Sheriff's Office announced yesterday.

I need to call them to find out what half of those actually mean, but suffice it to say some of the tax shops that pop up overnight are not operating totally aboveboard. A BSO release said all tax preparers should have a business tax license from the city and county, plus a preparer tax identification number. If they don't, you might not want to be giving them all your banking information.

"Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country," Sheriff Al Lamberti said in the release. "We will not stand by and let temporary businesses operate unchecked while trusting victims put themselves at risk for identity theft."

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