The IRS has extra cash: more than $1 billion in extra cash. And some of it might belong to you.

More than one million taxpayers who were due a refund failed to file a federal income tax return in 2008, resulting in more than $1 billion sitting and waiting to be collected. The IRS estimates that half of those refunds are worth more than $600 each.

How much is a billion dollars? I know we throw around these “illions” anymore (millions, billions, trillions) like they’re nothing but it’s a lot of money. How much? If the IRS gave away a dollar an hour, it would take them more than 114,155 years to get rid of $1 billion. Yeah.

Who is owed the most money? By the numbers, the IRS estimates that more folks in California (122,500) are owed refunds than taxpayers in any other state; the state with the least number of taxpayers owed a refund is Vermont (1,700). Taxpayers in Oregon are due the least average refund ($527) while taxpayers in Wyoming are owed the largest average refund ($773).

If you are due a refund, you have to file a return. The return must be filed (meaning signed, properly addressed, and postmarked) no later than Tuesday, April 17, 2012. If you are due a refund, there is no penalty for filing late. However, after April 17, 2012, the statute of limitations will have run for 2008 returns and you’ll be out of luck and your share will become the property of the U.S. Government.

Why might you be due a refund? Maybe you had too much withholding from your wages or made too much him quarterly payments. You might have been eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit because you didn’t get a stimulus check that year (assuming you were entitled to one). You might have also been eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). These are refundable credits – but you can’t receive the benefit of them unless you file.

Of course, if you owe the feds money (for student loans or back taxes, for example) or if your refund is otherwise earmarked for seizure (such as child support obligations), your refund will be offset by the amounts owed.

If you need a copy of the 2008 tax form, you can download one as a pdf here, visit the IRS website or call toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Remember that you’ll need your forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 from 2008 in order to file; if you don’t have them, request copies from your employer, bank or other payer. If that doesn’t work, you can try ordering them from, filing a federal form 4506-T (downloads as a pdf), or by calling 800-908-9946.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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