Year-end investing moves, Dec. 2011
Year-end retirement moves, Dec. 2011

Santa IRS' sack is stuffed with thousands of tax refunds totaling $153 million

Forget Santa Claus. This year more than 99,123 taxpayers want a visit from Santa IRS.

This federal gift giver has tax refund checks totaling $153.3 million for some deserving individuals.

The average tax refund check is $1,547.

That certainly could buy a lot of holiday cheer!

But unlike jolly old St. Nick who finds his way to homes worldwide each December, Santa IRS needs some help.

The refund checks in the IRS holiday sack were returned by the Postal Service because they were undeliverable.

Annual problem, usual mistakes: This is an annual problem for Santa IRS.

He's not as famous as his red fur clad, sleigh riding cousin, but every year Santa IRS must search for some good tax filing girls and boys who are no longer at the addresses on their tax returns.

In some cases, the refunds were bounced back to the U.S. Treasury because filers put down the wrong address on their returns. It happens. Numbers are transposed all the time.

And when 1234 Main Street is entered on a 1040 as the nonexistent 1324 Main Street, that check gets sent right back to Uncle Sam.

Other times, the address mistake is because the taxpayer's handwriting is illegible. We've all struggled to decipher our own handwriting from time to time. Is that a 5 or a 3, a 1 or 7? Just imagine how our chicken scratches look to others.

When you scribble your address info on your return, IRS employees entering the info into the agency's database sometimes have to guess. And the wrong guesses mean your refund is returned as undeliverable.

Then there the folks who move after filing a return and don't bother to notify either their local post office or the IRS.

This is a common problem with college students who file their returns with a campus address and then leave once the spring semester ends, but before they get their refunds.

Collect your tax cash now: Whatever the reason for the undeliverable refund, you have a chance to get your money now, just in time for holiday shopping.

If you think you're due one of the undeliverable refund checks, use the IRS' Where's My Refund? online tracking tool. It will tell your the status of your refund and, in some cases, provide instructions on how to resolve delivery problems.

If you prefer to call, dial the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1954. That automated system will give details on how to update your address.

And once Santa IRS gets the correct delivery information, he'll get your check to you.

IRS recommends direct deposit: Of course, says the IRS, you could have saved yourself and Santa IRS some trouble by having your refund directly deposited to a checking or savings account.

That's what more than 78 million taxpayers did last year.

The direct deposit option also gives you the choice of splitting your tax refund into multiple financial accounts or using the money to buy a savings bond.

Think about direct deposit when you file your 2011 return next year. That way Santa IRS will have fewer taxpayers to track down next December.

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It blows my mind that so many refunds can't be delivered, and we're now seven months past the normal filing due date. I realize that some went on extension and that's why they were late. But many of them were regular filers and I would think they would have the sense to be after the IRS to find their money long before now.

Barbara Cruz

Its true, I got one myself just a few days ago.

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