“I’ve got a dollar. Hey, hey, hey, hey.” When you score a little extra cash suddenly, it’s hard not to do a little song and dance like the kids from Little Rascals. Even more when you discover some unclaimed property or asset you had long forgotten about.
Or maybe that happy dance is being reserved for something not forgotten, but highly anticipated … namely a tax refund for those who submitted a paper return in 2021.
The good news on that IRS front right now is that they’ve processed 4.3 of the 4.5 million 1040 paper returns received in 2021, and they’re cranking out 180-240 corrected returns per hour with only about 300k more to go. That all means, if you’re still waiting on a refund for your 2020 return, it should be headed your way soon.
If it’s for your 2021 taxes, well, you might be waiting a little while longer – all the more reason to go digital.
Now, a couple of advantages to letting my team and I do your filing is that we submit returns and amendments digitally, AND we have a special priority phone line to the IRS. That means, we can get things done faster and get answers faster.
And even though your 2022 filing won’t be happening for a while yet, we can ensure things are set up to crank it out earlier than April 15… with the possibility of reduced tax liability. When you’re ready to make that happen, we’ve got time on our calendar:
Now, a return isn’t the only kind of unclaimed property out there. You’d think people would keep better track of their assets, but sometimes things get missed in the busyness of life.
So, I’ve prepared a little breakdown of what that unclaimed property is and how to recover it…
When Taxpayers Discover Unclaimed Property
“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain
If you saw a twenty blowing down the sidewalk and, after a quick look around, couldn’t see anyone who might’ve dropped it, you’d pick it up, right? Well, what if you checked your wallet and found out it was your $20 bill you had dropped unknowingly?
Turns out there’s a chance a lot more twenties are blowing around out there in the form of “unclaimed property,” and some of it could be yours.
Who couldn’t use found money?
What is ‘unclaimed’ property?
Unclaimed (aka “abandoned”) property is accounts or other property in financial institutions or companies that’s had no activity or contact with the owner for a long time, generally one year or more. After this “dormancy period,” the property gets sent to the state for safekeeping.
This property can be money, uncashed paychecks or stocks, refunds, overpayments, or royalties. Other examples include: the contents of bank accounts or safe deposit boxes, real estate or land, distributions from trusts or pensions, payouts from insurance policies and annuities, traveler’s checks, leftover wages from companies you worked for that went bankrupt – even security deposits you forgot that you never got back.
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, about one in 10 people have unclaimed, missing, or forgotten assets just waiting for them. Some estimates put the unclaimed money and property in the tens of billions of dollars.
Sorry – not all of that’s for you, and forgetting about assets doesn’t guarantee you’ll find them again. But sometimes leaving property behind is as simple as forgetting to leave a forwarding address for your mail. We all get busy: It happens.
If you think it happened to you, how do you find out?
Doing the work
Claiming unclaimed property does take some work.
Your best starting point is the state where you think the money might be. Most (but not all) state governments have agencies to help find unclaimed property – try a comptroller’s office.
State governments do not contact folks regarding lost property, either, so treat any communication you get on this subject out of the blue as a possible scam. Many private companies will claim to be able to help you, too, but there may be little they can do for a fee that you can’t do yourself for free … with a bit of legwork.
Where might your property be? Draw up a list of states where you’ve lived – they’re the most likely places you’ll find any unclaimed property belonging to you. Don’t forget to check for forgotten tax refunds in states where you worked (in a minute, we’ll talk about the IRS, too …)
Enter info. Start your search on a state’s site by entering your name; if you changed your name through marriage, search under your prior name as well. You’ll have to verify your name, address, and other ID info.
File a claim. Each state has its process, but generally, you can start online. Most states also want a signed and notarized paper claim form, copies of your driver’s license and Social Security card, and proof of address.
Sometimes you can claim property that involves loved ones or businesses you might have co-owned, but this can be trickier. For example, to claim property for a minor, you might need a copy of the child’s birth certificate. For a deceased relative, you’ll likely need a copy of the death certificate. With property concerning a business, you’ll typically need proof of incorporation or other documents showing your ownership.
Other places to look:
- The U.S. Department of Labor if a former employer broke labor laws;
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation if one of your past banking institutions went out of business;
- The National Association of Insurance Commissioners if you might have unclaimed money in policies.
Uncle Sam can help
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the biggest sources of unclaimed property – none other than the IRS.
Billions of dollars in unclaimed federal tax refunds are just sitting there for taxpayers like you to file and collect – and not only your refund but tax goodies (like your share of the Earned Income Tax Credit, if you qualify). Generally, you’ll be able to claim refunds and credits going back three tax years if you didn’t file a return for one or more of those years. (We can help you with this.)
The IRS has a page (Where’s My Refund?) where you can hunt down mailed or electronic federal refunds you maybe never received. You’ll need to enter your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund. You can call the IRS, too. Though wait times tend to be endless these days, there is an automated system that might help you.
The IRS? Sometimes you can find money where you least expect it.
Now, while most of us are keeping track of our assets, it’s not unusual to overlook or just plain forget something. If it’s a tax refund, well, that’s certainly something we can help taxpayers like you look into.
And, of course, we can also help you make sure you’re tax compliant with all your assets and making a plan for reducing your tax burden looking ahead. Wanna talk that over? Let’s get a time in the books:
We’ve got you covered, and…
We’re here for you,
Emelia Mensa, CPA