In early March, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it had over $1 billion in unclaimed tax returns for people who didn’t file in 2013.
In fact, every year the government holds onto a huge amount of unclaimed cash. What’s more, tax refunds aren’t the only source. People leave money behind in old bank accounts, back wages, and insurance funds.
Fortunately, that money isn’t lost forever. If you think you have unclaimed money from the government, here’s how you can track it down.
How to find your unclaimed cash
If you suspect you have unclaimed money from the government, you’ll have to do a little detective work. There’s no central website dedicated to finding money, and the government typically doesn’t notify you.
If you do get calls about free money from the government, they could be a scam. In general, it’s your responsibility to investigate your unclaimed money (and you should never have to pay a fee to get it).
1. Search for unclaimed tax refunds
There are two main reasons why you might not have received your tax refund. The first is if you moved and the IRS didn’t have your new address. In that case, your check travels back to the government.
The second reason would be if you never filed a return. Some taxpayers aren’t required to file if their income was low, but they could be missing out on benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit.
If you’re due a refund, you won’t get a penalty for filing late. Therefore, if you think you have unclaimed cash from the IRS, take a look at the IRS website.
2. Find unpaid back wages
Does an old employer owe you one last paycheck? If that’s the case, head to the Wage and Hour Division’s database. You’ll find a big list of workers who are waiting to get paid.
If your name’s on the list, you’re eligible to get back wages from your employer. Note that the Wage and Hour Division only holds on to back wages for three years.
3. Get back cash from a retirement pension or veterans’ life insurance fund
Sometimes, policyholders or their beneficiaries are missing out on money from a life insurance fund.
For unclaimed pension money, head to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation website. Search for your name to find any unclaimed cash. Often, you’re owed money if a company where you took out a policy went out of business.
- Life insurance
- Disability payments
- Savings bonds
- Military back pay
4. See what happened to your closed bank account or investments
Your money is supposed to be safe in a bank, but you could take a hit if the institution fails. There are a number of agencies that will help if your former bank or credit union shut down.
If your investment disappeared, take a look at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Information website. The SEC has resources to help harmed investors.
5. Check your eligibility for a mortgage refund
Some homeowners are owed a refund on their FHA-insured mortgage. To be eligible, you must have taken the mortgage out after September 1, 1983, and paid an upfront premium at closing. You also can’t be in default on your mortgage.
To learn more about a refund, call 1-800-697-6967 or review the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.
6. Search your state for unclaimed cash
Finally, a state government may be holding onto your unclaimed cash. Perhaps you’ve moved a lot and left behind certain assets. Or maybe you overpaid on your utility bills and never got a refund.
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), people have misplaced billions of dollars across the country. Check out the NAUPA website to find out if any of these billions belong to you.
As for how long it takes to get back cash, that differs by department and state. The state of Washington, for example, says that claims are processed within 60 days of receipt.
Track down your unclaimed money from the government
Money goes missing for a variety of reasons.
Maybe you never filed a tax return and didn’t get your refund, or your bank closed and you thought your checking account balance was lost for good. Perhaps you’ve moved so many times you didn’t realize that some assets were left behind.
Whatever the reason, check these websites for records of your unclaimed money. The resources on the list above are just waiting to help you claim it.
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