February 9, 2005 - Phil Hodgen

Deadline for 2001 Federal income tax refunds

OK, all you procrastinators. The deadline for getting a refund on your 2001 Federal income taxes is April 15, 2005. The IRS announced today that the median unclaimed refund is $484. In plain, nonstatistical English, that means that half of the people who are owed refunds will receive a refund greater than $484. That’s real money where I come from.

My experience with this? Nonfilers have a constant anxiety that permeates their entire lives. They know they have a tax problem. Yet the anxiety — the fear — is frequently not a sufficient motivator to act and clean up the mess.

Lots of times — a majority of times, in my experience — the reality is better than the uncoagulated fear of the IRS. In other words, when a nonfiler finally does a tax return, the tax due is less than the feared outcome.

The punchline, of course, is that sometimes the nonfiler is owed a refund. And if they wait too long they lose the ability to get that refund. “Too late, so sad, good-bye!” says the IRS.

Nonfilers? Get that tax return in and claim the refund. The successful strategy, in my experience, is to pretend that you are an athlete and you are turning the whole process over to your coach. Coach says run, I run. Coach says sit-ups, I do sit-ups.

Or as a old friend of mine once asked me in another context, “Do you like monster movies?” I allowed that I did. He then carried on, “OK. Then be a zombie. Don’t be a mummy. Mummies just lie there. Zombies move without thinking. ‘Go mow lawn.’ ‘Go brush teeth.’ That’s how zombies do it. Be a zombie.”

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