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Does Uncle Sam Owe You Money?

The IRS has more than $2.5 billion it could refund to nearly 2 million taxpayers who did not file a 2000 return. The lesson for taxpayers who earned too little to require a return: You could be missing out on a big refund.

Those taxpayers, many of them students, retirees and part-time workers, have until April 15 to file a 2000 tax return or lose the refund forever.

"The clock is running if you want to get your refund," said IRS Commissioner Mark Everson. "Don't wait until it's too late."

About half the taxpayers due a return could claim more than $529. In many cases, the individuals had taxes withheld from their wages or made tax payments as a self-employed taxpayer but had too little income to require filing a return.

Some may also be eligible for the earned income tax credit, which refunds a portion of payroll taxes to lower wage workers. In 2000, the credit was available to families with two children who earned less than $31,152 and families with one child who earned less than $27,417. Single taxpayers who earned less than $10,380 may also qualify for the credit.

There is no penalty for filing a late return if you qualify for a refund, but the return must be postmarked by April 15 to beat the deadline for claiming the payment.

Taxpayers seeking a 2000 refund must also have filed a tax return for 2001 and 2002, or else the IRS holds onto the money until receiving those returns.

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