The Internal Revenue has just over $1 billion in tax refunds for approximately one million individuals who still need to file an income tax return for the year 2008.
If you still need to file a tax return for 2008, there's some basic rules to understand.
Refunds expire after three years. Federal tax refunds do have a shelf life, or statute of limitations. Refunds expire after three years from the original filing deadline (or from the extended deadline if you filed an extension). Refunds from the year 2008 will expire on April 17, 2012. Some states have the different statutes of limitations for refunds.
You can retrieve some tax documents directly from the IRS. The IRS keeps copies of W-2 forms, 1099's and other income-related documents. You can request copies of these tax documents by ordering an income transcript from the IRS. Either download and fill out Form 4506-T and take this to your local IRS office (they'll print out the transcript for you), or call the IRS at 1-800-908-9946 and ask that the transcript be mailed to you. Your tax professional can also order an income transcript for you that can be delivered by fax.
Use the income transcript as a starting point for finding your original documents. You can contract previous employers, brokers, and other financial institutions to obtain copies of your original tax documents. Original documents can contain more information compared to what's found on the income transcript. For example, the IRS doesn't show any state-related tax withholdings on its transcripts. Similarly, if your income transcript shows you sold some investments, you may want to contact your broker to obtain more detailed account history information.
Consider hiring an enrolled agent or certified public accountant. These two types of tax professionals can represent you before the IRS in addition to preparing your tax returns.
Your tax returns will need to be mailed in for manual processing. Tax returns from previous years cannot be e-filed. They'll have to be mailed in. And refunds often take longer for the IRS to send out. Refunds from older years go through additional processing checks at the IRS before being mailed out. If you owe tax for a different year, the IRS will use your refund to pay down what you owe for other years.
Mail your tax returns using certified mail with return receipt requested. Or, hand deliver your tax return to a local IRS office. This is all the more important with a 2008 tax return, as you will need proof that you filed the return on or before the April 17, 2012, deadline. If you hand deliver your tax return to the IRS, be sure to take a photocopy of page 1 of your tax return and ask the IRS agent to stamp the photocopy as received.
2008 has a special tax credit called the Recovery Rebate Credit. This tax credit is worth up to $600 for unmarried taxpayers and up to $1,200 for married couples, plus $300 per dependent child under age 17. This special tax credit is claimed on your 2008 tax return.