Spike in Unclaimed Tax Refunds

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigate whether the state of CT could do more to get unclaimed refunds to taxpayers.

    It's the payoff from a stressful tax time: reaping the tax refund reward.  This year the State Treasure’s Office expects to fork over $700 million in income tax refunds.

    “It was a lot more than I was expecting,” said Jacob Nyberg of New Haven, who’s already gotten his refund.

    "I was surprised I had so much,” added Steven Young of Wallingford.

    Tax payers in Connecticut no doubt want every penny that's owed to them. But the state is holding on to a lot more of your tax dollars than you might expect.  $10.5 million, to be exact! That's how much money you haven't collected in the past two decades.  And it heads right back into the state's coffers.

    "Yea, sure, it always surprises me,” said Kevin Sullivan, the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services.

    DRS is the state agency that's in charge of collecting your state taxes and doling out the refunds.  Sullivan said every year there's millions in income tax refunds that don't get claimed.  It’s free money the state gets to keep if you don't collect.

    Pouring over the numbers, the Troubleshooters discovered the amount of unclaimed tax refund money shot up the year the state introduced debit cards.  Last year, 2012, the state held on to over $6 million. Nearly four million of that was in the form of debit card refunds. The year before, in 2011, only about $2.3 million was left uncashed. And in 2010, the figure was $4.7 million. But DRS disputed that debit cards are making it harder for people to collect.

    “Transition is hard. There's no evidence that the debit cards have had any impact on the number of refunds claimed, the number of refunds uncashed,” said Sullivan.

    Still, after the Troubleshooters started asking questions, the state says it's going to change the way it handles unclaimed tax refunds, and make what they call every effort to make sure tax payers get every buck they're owed back in their wallets.  It’s a direct result of our story.

    "Next fall we will publish a list by name and town only…of all individuals we have sent a refund to who have yet to liquidate that refund. And we will do that once a year in the fall,” said Sullivan.

    If you think you've got extra cash collecting dust in Connecticut’s coffers, remember: you have three years to claim it from the state's tax division.  After that you'll have to claim it from the Treasurer’s Office through their unclaimed property program.  But there is no time limit to collect

    "You're always owed that refund. So even if you haven't claimed it, even if you haven’t activated your debit card and used it up, even if you haven't cashed your check, even if you've lost both of those--the refund is still yours,” said Sullivan.

    You may be due for a nice tax refund windfall if it turns out you're owed some of that $10 million that's been floating around since the early '90s.  It might be time to cash in.

    "I'd rather have the money,” said Jonathon Key of New Haven.