IRS' Handling of Undelivered Income Tax Refund Checks

GGD-81-71: Published: Apr 10, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 1981.

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GAO was asked to review the actions taken by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in response to previous GAO recommendations that IRS: (1) furnish the news media with lists of individuals entitled to undelivered tax refunds; and (2) determine if information in the Social Security Administration's (SSA) benefit files would be useful in locating individuals entitled to undelivered tax refunds.

IRS does not actively furnish newspapers with lists of individuals due undelivered income tax refunds; instead, it passively makes the lists available and achieves mixed results in getting them published. IRS needs to make additional efforts to get these lists published, including the monitoring of district office efforts and the examination of alternatives when lists are not published. IRS and SSA have discussed the recommendation that SSA match its computer files on SSA beneficiaries with IRS computer files on individuals due undelivered refund checks. Although IRS has continuously sought assistance from SSA, it has been unable to determine the usefulness of SSA benefit files. In addition, SSA has been slow in resolving the issue of how it can provide SSA beneficiary information to IRS in a manner consistent with the Privacy Act and SSA regulations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of IRS should require routine monitoring of IRS districts' efforts in getting newspapers to publish lists of individuals entitled to undelivered refund checks and measure the effectiveness of these lists in getting checks delivered to rightful individuals.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  2. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HHS should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to assist IRS in determining the feasibility of using the Social Security Administration's benefits files as a means of locating individuals entitled to income tax refund checks by (1) matching as soon as possible IRS computer tapes on undelivered refunds to address information on SSA's benefit files; and (2) resolving the disclosure issue as quickly as possible so that taxpayers identified by the computer tape match can be notified, either by an SSA or IRS mailing, that they are entitled to undelivered tax refund checks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services


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