That 2005 in the headline is not the number of taxpayers missing out on refunds. It's the tax year that they didn't file.
And three tax seasons ago -- remember that in 2006 most of us were sending in our 2005 tax forms -- more than a million folks didn't bother to fill out a 1040.
Their loss. Literally.
The IRS says that these nonfilers are due a portion of $1.3 billion that's just been sitting in a Treasury account awaiting its rightful owners. But unless those folks send in their old returns soon, Uncle Sam will get to hang onto the money.
In cases where a return was not filed, federal law gives most taxpayers a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. If the IRS doesn't get a return within those three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.
If you're one of the nonfilers, don't worry. There's no penalty for not filing if you don't owe. So download a 2005 Form 1040 -- or 1040A or 1040EZ; you can find them, as well as other 2005 tax forms, at this prior year forms page -- and send the dang thing off to the IRS ASAP.
And no, you're not going to get any interest on the money that has been sitting in an IRS account for three years. The agency has to pay that only when they mess up in getting your refund to you in a timely manner. This screw-up is all your own nonfiling fault.
Who's due the most: Here are the top 10 states as far as number of folks who didn't file their 2005 returns and might be due money, as well as their median estimated refund amounts. That estimated amount means half fo the folks will get more and half will get less.
New Hampshire didn't make the top 10 as far as number of nonfilers, but its residents are likely to get bigger checks. The Granite State's median refund amount is $667.
Military money and more: Actually, the largest possible refunds will go to members of the military who are stationed all over the world. Those service men and women, numbering about 5,500, have a median estimated refund of $800 awaiting them when they finally file their 2005 returns.
You can see the full state (and Washington, D.C.) figures, including the overall dollar amounts due the various nonfiling state residents, at the IRS page announcing the unclaimed refunds.
That announcement also has information on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for 2005. Some filers who were eligible in 2005 for this tax break for lower-income workers can use that data to claim the credit now.
Or any time before or by this April 15.