Preparing for the Word We Dare Not Say

By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, December 13, 2007

Here are two words that can get a person so riled up you would think you'd insulted his mama: tax time.

Yes folks, no use grousing. Before you realize it, the time to file your tax return will be upon us. As we approach the end of the year, I thought it a good time to review a few tax-related things.

First, the Internal Revenue Service may be looking for you. But in this instance, that's a good thing. The IRS says 115,478 taxpayers are due refund checks worth a total of about $110 million. The checks were returned as undeliverable.

Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all refunds, or about one in a thousand, go undelivered, according to the IRS, which so far this year has processed nearly 105 million refunds totaling about $240 billion.

The average undelivered refund was for $953. If you're not sure you received your refund, you'd better double-check. That money would go a long way in helping with your holiday bills or in kick-starting the emergency fund you've been promising to set up for years.

Refund checks are mailed to a taxpayer's last known address, so make sure the IRS has the right contact information for you. There are a few ways to update your information. You can go online to and use the "Where's My Refund?" feature. You can also file an IRS Form 8822, the change of address form, which can be downloaded from or requested by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). You can also call the IRS's customer service line at 800-829-1040.

Of course, the quickest way to get your refund is to sign up for direct deposit, which is available whether you file a paper return or electronically.

Here's an idea: If you are getting a refund, consider using it as an opportunity to save. Last year, taxpayers for the first time were allowed to split their refunds among as many as three accounts at three financial institutions. Previously you could designate only one bank account for your direct-deposit refund.

You may not have heard about this option because it's new. But now that you know, use it. Direct some of that refund to an individual retirement account, perhaps.

The option requires IRS Form 8888, "Direct Deposit of Refund to More Than One Account." If you want the IRS to deposit your refund into just one account, use the direct deposit line on your tax form.

For charitable donations, you need to make sure you get the right documentation if you plan to claim them on your 2007 tax return.

Starting with the 2007 tax year, you need paperwork -- a receipt, canceled check or bank record -- to back up your cash contributions. You need a record of your contributions regardless of the amount. Previously, only contributions of $250 or more required receipts.

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