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Georgians owed millions in 2006 tax refunds

Nearly 46,000 Georgia workers may be able to grab a piece of more than $42 million in unclaimed 2006 tax refunds, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS reports that roughly 1.4 million people, nationwide, are eligible to receive part of the more than $1.3 billion in refunds available to workers who did not file a 2006 federal, income tax return. The agency estimates the median unclaimed refund in Georgia for the 2006 tax year is $560.

"Time is running out if you want to get your refund," IRS Spokesman Mark Green said. "We want all taxpayers to get the refund they're due."

Green explained that, in order to collect their share of the unclaimed money, individuals will have to file an income tax return with the IRS no later than this year's April 15 deadline. He said taxpayers who did not file 2006 returns should review their 2006 statements for refundable credits and withholdings.

He said there exists a category of workers who paid taxes through their W-2 withholdings, but were not required to file income tax returns. He said some people may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return, even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly payments.

"People who fall in the category are students who work part-time jobs," he said. "Even though they are dependents, they can still file their income tax returns. And they can get generally 90 percent and 100 percent of their withholding back as a refund."

Green said residents were required to file a 2006 income tax return if their income was more than $8,450, if they were under the age of 65. For those over 65, the requirement was $9,700.

"In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund," Green said. "If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury."

Green said taxpayers who met the requirements for filing 2007 or 2008 tax returns must have filed, and be up to date, on their 2007 or 2008 income taxes to receive the 2006 refunds.

The 2006 refunds, he added, may also be applied to amounts still owed to the IRS and may be used to satisfy unpaid child support or past-due federal debts, like student loans.

"By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 2006," he said. "For example, most telephone customers, including most cell-phone users, qualify for the one-time telephone excise tax refund — available only on the 2006 return."

Many low- and moderate-income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) either, Green said. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below a certain threshold, which in 2006 was $38,348 for those with two or more children, $34,001 for people with one child and $14,120 for those with no children.

"For the individuals who have part-time jobs this year, keep in mind about any withholding they earn, make sure they file their returns next year to be sure that they can have that money, whether they meet the income requirements or not," Green said.

He said the IRS is taking steps to help people having difficulties meeting their tax obligations because of unemployment or other financial problems.

That help includes more compromise for struggling taxpayers; a series of Saturday "open houses," offering taxpayers extra opportunities to work out tax problems face to face with the IRS; and special outreach with partner groups to unemployed taxpayers.

"We are aware that the economic downturn has affected many people," Green said. "We will continue to do everything we can to help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations."

Green said current and prior-year tax forms and instructions are available through the IRS web site, or by calling 1-800-829-3676 (1-800-TAX-FORM).

Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2006, 2007 or 2008 should request copies from their employer or bank, obtain a free transcript of the information by visiting the web site, or call 1-800-829-1040.

On the net:

Internal Revenue Service: www.IRS.gov