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Does Any of the $917M in Unclaimed Funds Belong to You?

Unclaimed Funds

Imagine paying off your credit card debt in one fell swoop and it not resulting in having to cut corners for two years. Imagine building up that evasive three month salary savings we’re always being warned to do. Or, how about a weekend away with no worries about what it’s going to do to your budget? It might be possible – this, from the most unlikely source of all: the IRS. Turns out, taxpayers who haven’t filed 2009 tax returns are missing out on tax refunds totaling $917 million.

2009 the Magic Number

Here’s the kicker – think back to 2009. The recession? Remember it? We were neck deep and many of us didn’t file because our income was low, so we didn’t have to. But if taxes were withheld from your paycheck (or for some, their paycheckS), they might qualify for a piece of that $917 million. And it gets better – even if you didn’t have taxes withheld, you might still qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can easily total $6,000 for lower income taxpayers. The IRS also says half of those who have money earmarked total more than $500.

If, however, you don’t file before April 15, you waive that potential refund. So you have to act fast or else it’s going to be turned over to the Treasury. Also, too, you can file for the years following 2009 with each respective deadline occurring one year later. For instance, for 2010, you have until April 15, 2014 and so on.

Student Loans, Child Support

Even those who have past due student loans can benefit if they’re entitled to a refund. If all of that refund is applied to those student loans or even child support, that’s less you owe. It’s a win-win all the way around. Plus, there are no late penalties either if you’re indeed owed a refund. You can even check around to see if other arms of the government owes you money. There’s more than $58 million that’s growing stagnant in old bank accounts, insurance payouts and pension benefits. It might take a couple of hours to look into it all, but look at it this way – today is Friday. Take those couple of hours over the weekend, do your due diligence and you just might report to work Monday morning knowing you’ve padded your bank account. Not too many better ways to start a Monday, right? The odds are good, too. Currently, 985,000 Americans could be in line for those unclaimed refunds.

As it is today, states, federal agencies and other organizations have easy to follow processes for checking on that unclaimed cash and benefits. If you do the math, that equates to close to $200 for every single American resident. In fact, one woman in Connecticut claimed a whopping $32 million from the sale of more than 1 million shares of stock. She’s opted to remain anonymous, but suffice it to say, her Saturday afternoon was time well spent. There are many similar stories, too. Most don’t end with millions of dollars, but suffice it to say that there are plenty of stories that include statements like, “it was enough to pay off my car (or student loans or credit card balances).

Pension Benefit Guaranty

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp says it says $300 million in benefits that are owed to more than 40,000 folks. It says, on average, the benefit is around $9,100. What makes this so interesting is many are unaware they had money accruing at former employers. While that’s impressive, most of these funds are being held by state treasurers. This writer even has money coming; it looks like close to $1,000. Two words: weekend getaway.

In state coffers the amounts being held collectively total around $41 billion. Each state has its own laws, but the funds might be from state tax refunds, insurance payouts, safety deposit boxes, bank account balances and others. Many realize those safety deposit boxes have diamonds, liquor and even the unusual finds of food, teeth and wait for it… underwear. We’re not even going to begin to explore the psychology behind storing underwear in a safety deposit box, but again – look at it from a different perspective: imagine the story you can tell the grandkids one day. Plus, the reality exists that this could be a safety deposit box that’s laid dormant for decades – the possibilities are endless and if they don’t contain cash and bonds, there could exist family heirlooms, old photographs and historical family documents.

State Treasurers

Most states takes steps to find the rightful owners. Often, they run ads in newspapers, websites and even booths set up at state fairs. Even so, most of it goes unclaimed. Most often, we figure there’s nothing in our past that’s earning interest, so why bother? As I mentioned, I discovered a bit of cash with my name all over it. Interestingly enough, it was from a former employer from more than a decade ago. And it’s been earning interest. Until I claimed it, it was considered abandoned. Most states declare these properties as abandoned when the account holder or other owner has no contact or activity associated with for several years. In my case, a decade. Fortunately, in my state, it would have remained right where it is forever. As the state treasurer explained,

The money belongs to the owner in perpetuity. Even if the owner dies, then their heirs could come back and claim it.

You can do a search for your state treasury’s site and most have links on the homepages that will allow you to check your name against its database. Be sure to check the other sites, as well.

In Florida alone, the treasurer says his state has received 61,271 new unclaimed property accounts worth more than $25 million as part of a settlement with insurance company AIG. Most consumers would never even consider the settlement that made headlines due to lawsuits about the way they conducted their audits would result in some type of monetary settlement for them. But there it is. It’s part of the one settled last year with major insurers, including MetLife, Prudential and Nationwide after regulators in 20 states audited the methods they used to locate life insurance beneficiaries after a policyholder’s death.

You may recall that there were too many insurers who used the SSA Death Master File as justification to cancel annuity payments to those clients who showed up as deceased – while that’s not necessarily symbolic of wrongdoing (unless they dance around the logistics), it was where auditors began their investigations. The problem comes in when they didn’t see it through and issue the payments to their beneficiaries. Worse, those companies continued to collect the payments from the annuities until there was nothing left. A new way to steal from the dead. As a result of the lawsuits, though, the payments are being sent to their rightful owners. For those whose addresses are unknown, those funds are sitting in an account waiting to be claimed. Unfortunately, though, once they hit those accounts, most don’t know to look there.

So what are your plans for Saturday? If you have a story about money you come across unexpectedly, share it with us – how did you spend it?

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