February 4, 2014

We could all use a few extra bucks now and then, and at times face incredible hardships just to make ends meet. But few of us realize just how much unclaimed tax money that may very well have our name on it.

Unclaimed Tax Money Total = $60 billion

According to a 2013 article on CNN Money, there is currently close to $60 billion in unclaimed cash and benefits out there waiting to be collected. The Federal government is sitting on a total of $18 billion that belongs to its citizens, while State and Local governments hold close to $42 billion. This astonishing figure is comprised of a collection of many different types of forgotten funds including abandoned bank accounts, retirement funds that go unclaimed, un-cashed paychecks, unclaimed tax refunds, insurance payouts, and many others.

One of the largest amounts of unclaimed money being held by the US treasury is from people not cashing in their savings bonds, currently close to $16 billion worth. Additionally, the IRS recently estimated the amount of tax refunds that have not been collected by hard working Americans at $917 million for the 2009 tax year alone.

Get Your Billion Back

We all know that the IRS can be relentless when it comes to collecting tax money that is owed, but they are considerably less assertive when it comes to trying to reach people who have unclaimed tax refunds. The majority of this unclaimed tax refund money comes from people who don’t think they need to file a tax return because they did not earn much, or from people overlooking some of the many tax credits that are now in effect.

But you had better act fast if you think some of this money might belong to you, because the government has imposed a law stating that the IRS only has to have a 3 year waiting period to hold these unclaimed funds. If you do not file a tax return to try to collect within those 3 years, your refund officially becomes property of the US Treasury.

“We’re not talking about free money here,” said Peter Sepp, Executive VP of the National Taxpayers’ Union. “This was money that an individual or a family earned and gave too much of to the federal government. They should get it back.” This sentiment has been echoed by many and has even prompted H&R Block to launch their newest campaign, urging Americans to “Get your billion back”. They have aired numerous commercials as well as other marketing for this campaign, offering assistance in retrieving some of this lost cash and putting it back in the pockets of the hard working citizens that it belongs to.

Unclaimed Property Recovery Programs

According to The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), unclaimed property laws have been around since the 1930’s, but have only recently become broader and stricter in enforcement. Property becomes “unclaimed” when an organization loses contact with the owner of the property for a period of one year or longer. At that point, these organizations are required to turn over these funds to a State Official who is responsible for trying to find the rightful owner.

These State Officials have developed many programs to try to reunite the owner with their lost money, including developing a national database missingmoney.com. This program alone is responsible for getting nearly $2 billion a year back to its rightful owners.

While there are numerous companies out there that offer services to help you reclaim some of your potential missing cash, beware of those that offer this service after paying a fee. There are plenty of organizations that offer this assistance free of charge, such as the website Unclaimed.org which is managed by the NAUPA. From their site you can find links to begin your search of any of the 50 states unclaimed property databases to see if you have money out there waiting to be claimed.

Savings Bonds, Pensions, and Forgotten Funds

The Treasury Department has a website where you can search to see if you have any matured yet unredeemed savings bonds. All you will need to perform a simple search is your social security number (or the SS# of the person who gave you the savings bond as a gift). Additionally, the FDIC has a website available to search for unclaimed funds from closed banks at www2.fdic.gov/funds/index.asp, where you can search by name and state for any money that might be waiting with your name on it.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is the US Government Agency that is responsible for paying benefits on failed pension plans. You can search their website to see if you have any unclaimed pension or retirement funds. The United States Department of Labor can also help with locating lost or forgotten retirement funds.

Claim Your Money–It’s Yours

Searching for lost or unclaimed money in your name isn’t difficult and doesn’t take long. The results can be considerably beneficial to those who find forgotten funds. Just think of all the wonderful things you could do if you had some extra money in your pocket right now. After all, you won’t have anything to lose once you search to find what you’ve already forgotten!