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The Unclaimed Cash Guide

If the government owes you money and you don't collect it, then it's unclaimed. Unclaimed cash can also lie hidden in banks, credit unions, pensions, and other sources (much more on this in a moment). Unclaimed cash or property is usually in an account or other location that has had no transaction or activity involving the original owner for a year or longer. Once the property is designated as unclaimed, it will be turned over to the state once a prescribed holding period has passed.

Have you ever left a job abruptly and never received your last check? Moved out of town before collecting deposits for utility/cable companies or housing? What about tax refunds you never claimed or received? You, your relatives and friends could have missing money at this very moment resting within a government treasury, but as with any treasure, you need a map to find it. In this guide, you will discover the directions you must sail to claim your cash.

Before we start, though, we'll give an urgent warning. Many people out there will promise to find your cash for a fee. In some cases, they will tell you that you are owed cash and will ask for money to retrieve it for you. These are usually scams. If anyone offers “help” recovering unclaimed cash and wants money up front, don't fall for it.

Where To Find Your Cash
There are many resources available for locating these funds, but there is no centralized database containing all of the various departments that may have your money. As the saying goes, every good thing requires effort. Here is a quick overview of where your money might be. You'll find links to these resources later in the guide.

Virginia Unclaimed Money Database - Search databases for any state where you or a family member has lived. Almost every state has a database, though some work through the Missing Money database.

Tax Refunds - Wouldn't it be nice to find out the IRS owes YOU money? If your refund was not claimed or undelivered, this could very well be the case.

Unpaid Wages - The Wage and Hour Division is a part of the Department of Labor. If at any point you feel that you might be owed back wages from your employer, they provide a database for you to search.

Pension Money - Search your former employers to find any pension cash left in their custody. If the company went out of business, starting your search here would be a good choice.

Banking and Investments - Bank failures, credit failures and SEC claims funds all leave a trail of unclaimed funds, and if you've ever had accounts at a failed institution, it's a worthwhile place to hunt.

FHA Insurance Refunds - Did you have an FHA-insured mortgage? If so, you may be eligible for a refund.

As you can see, there is no shortage of places to find your missing treasure.

Could the IRS Have Your Money?
If you earned income in the last few years but didn't file a tax return due to your wages being below the filing limit, the IRS might have money for you! Millions of dollars in IRS checks are returned every year as undeliverable.

The IRS is your gateway to two kinds of "missing money": Unclaimed Refunds and Undeliverable Refunds. Each has a process/procedure associated with both searching and claiming.

Unclaimed Refunds
Depending on your income bracket, many individuals have taxes withheld from their paychecks but at the end of the year are not required to file a tax return due to having too little income. If this is true for you, you can claim a refund for the withheld amounts. Other individuals may not have had tax withheld, but would still be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. If this were the case, you would need to file a return to claim it.

To collect this money, a return must be filed with the IRS no later than three years from the due date of the return. If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Information about the Earned Income Tax Credit and how to claim it is also available on www.irs.gov.

Undeliverable Refunds
The IRS mails refund checks to your last known address. Checks are returned to the IRS if you move without notifying the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service. You may be able to update your address with the IRS on the "Where's My Refund?" feature available on IRS.gov. You will be prompted to provide an updated address if there is an undeliverable check outstanding within the last 12 months.

You can also ensure that the IRS has your correct address by filing Form 8822, Change of Address. You can find the form on www.irs.gov or order it by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).