IRS News Release  
February 16, 2000

Taxpayers Must File Soon to
Claim $2 Billion in 1996 Refunds

WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service estimates that nearly 1.6 million people who paid taxes but failed to file returns for 1996 risk losing about $2 billion in refunds if they don't get their late returns to the IRS by April 15, 2000.

The law generally provides for refunds only if taxpayers file returns within three years of the filing deadline, said IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti. We want people to get the refunds they deserve, but they have to file tax returns in order to claim them. IRS researchers found that as of January 1999, these taxpayers still had not filed the returns that were due in 1997. Some may have filed them since then. If the returns aren=t at the IRS by April 15, 2000, the taxpayers lose their right to the money. It is not enough for the returns to be mailed by then -- the law requires that the IRS receive the returns by that date in order to refund taxes withheld or paid during 1996.

If a taxpayer has not filed returns for 1997 or 1998, the IRS will hold any 1996 refund due until it also has returns for those years. The refund would be reduced by any amounts still owed for other years, as well as by unpaid child support or certain federal debts, such as student loans. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund, since the penalty would be based on any unpaid tax.

By not filing returns, people may lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 1996. Many eligible low-income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Although eligible taxpayers may get a refund when their EITC is more than their tax, those who file returns more than three years late would be able only to offset their tax. They would not be able to receive refunds if the credit exceeded their tax.

For 1996, workers could claim the EITC if their incomes were less than $28,495 and they had two qualifying children, less than $25,078 and they had one qualifying child, or less than $9,500, if they had no child and were at least age 25 and under 65.

The IRS Web site at has forms for prior years as well as the current tax year. Taxpayers may also request the forms by calling (toll-free) 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). Those who need help preparing prior year returns or gathering income records may call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. Taxpayers should request either forms or help by mid-March, to allow time for processing before the April deadline.

The following are IRS estimates, by state, of the numbers of taxpayers who have not filed for potential refunds for the 1996 tax year.

Nonfilers                 (000s)  Potential Est. Refunds

Alabama                   23,600          $22,796
Alaska                     7,800           $9,542
Arizona                   29,900          $32,075
Arkansas                  13,800          $11,720
California               174,800         $417,587
Colorado                  26,600           31,302
Connecticut               18,900           27,471
Delaware                   5,200           $4,577
District of Columbia       6,900           $9,923
Florida                  103,800         $156,665
Georgia                   57,600          $53,076
Hawaii                    10,900          $11,853
Idaho                      5,600           $5,799
Illinois                  69,100          $89,001
Indiana                   31,700          $32,514
Iowa                      14,700          $11,825
Kansas                    16,900          $14,051
Kentucky                  15,800          $17,311
Louisiana                 24,300          $26,321
Maine                      5,000           $9,208
Maryland                  32,900          $35,136
Massachusetts             36,400          $61,423
Michigan                  65,900          $75,168
Minnesota                 21,300          $19,608
Mississippi               12,500          $11,999
Missouri                  30,300          $28,384
Montana                    3,900           $3,222
Nebraska                   7,700           $7,869
Nevada                    17,000          $23,396
New Hampshire              5,500           $7,778
New Jersey                52,800          $74,264
New Mexico                 9,200           $8,625
New York                 102,700         $154,104
North Carolina            44,200          $39,507
North Dakota               2,500           $2,091
Ohio                      48,500          $53,140
Oklahoma                  20,900          $17,376
Oregon                    22,800          $22,780
Pennsylvania              50,300          $67,205
Rhode Island               5,100           $5,307
South Carolina            17,400          $17,052
South Dakota               2,900           $2,361
Tennessee                 23,400          $27,560
Texas                    119,100         $141,570
Utah                       9,700          $10,948

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