NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Millions Fail To File Taxes

April 18, 2002

One of the nation's dirty little secrets is how many people don't bother to file a federal tax return -- in some cases neglecting to do so for years.

  • Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that for 1998 alone, at least 1.7 million people never bothered to file a return.
  • And those are just the ones who were owed refunds -- leaving the government with $2.3 billion in unclaimed refunds.
  • If someone who is eligible for a refund lets three years go by without filing a tax form, the government generally keeps the money.

For those who owe money, the IRS typically will be more lenient on those who file before the agency knocks on their door. Many states have amnesty programs -- which waive penalties and sometimes interest for those who voluntarily pay back taxes.

Source: Tom Herman, "Forgot to Pay Your Taxes?" Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2002.


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