The IRS is sitting on 99,123 tax refund checks that have been returned to the agency by the post office as undeliverable. The average refund on these undelivered checks is $1,547, and the IRS has about $153.3 million in total refunds that need to be re-sent to taxpayers.
Taxpayers can call a special tax refund hotline at 1-800-829-1954 or access the Where's my Refund? application on the IRS.gov Web site. Using the Web site application, taxpayers can update their address so that refunds can be mailed back out. Taxpayers can also initiate a refund trace using that same Web application if they believe their refund has been lost or misappropriated.
In their news release, the IRS urged taxpayers to use direct deposit for receiving their refund checks, claiming that "taxpayers can put an end to lost, stolen or undelivered checks by choosing direct deposit when they file either paper or electronic returns." However I rarely recommend the use of direct deposit, pointing to the numerous instances of lost and misdirected direct deposits. The IRS has numerous safety mechanisms in place to protect refunds issued by check, such as the ability to hold on to the refund if the mail is returned by the post office or the ability to trace a check to see if was cashed inappropriately, and these protections are entirely lacking when it comes to direct deposits.
Taxpayers should also be aware that the IRS does not contact people about missing refunds via email. Emails purporting to come from the IRS are fraudulent attempts to steal personal information (also called "phishing" attacks). The IRS communicates with taxpayers about their tax returns and refunds only by letters mailed out to the taxpayer.
Taxpayers can update their address with the IRS by filling out Form 8822 and mailing it to their local IRS service center.