Lawmaker exposes unclaimed refunds

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) of Los Angeles County

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: If you're racing against the tax deadline today, a refund might be sounding mighty nice. But did you know the government is holding tens of millions of dollars in uncollected refunds and uncollected economic stimulus checks just from last year?

California Congressman Brad Sherman wants to change that, starting in Los Angeles county. Congressman, why has this money not been claimed?

Brad Sherman: Well, with the stimulus payments, you had a lot of folks who just never filed a tax return. You have people who move and then you have deceased taxpayers whose heirs are unaware of their financial affairs.

Radke: And what do you want to do about it?

Sherman: Well, I want people to claim what's owed to them. That's why we've put on my Web site a list that lists name and zip code of those who have either unclaimed stimulus payments or unclaimed tax refunds.

Radke: What is this project going to cost taxpayers?

Sherman: Well, I don't . . .

Radke: Or is there any cost?

Sherman: There's certainly no cost of putting this information on my Web page -- oh, I just asked my staff to work overtime -- but we're trying to refund the money to whom its owed. And I don't regard that as a cost to taxpayers. There are many ways to deal with the federal deficit, but having certain people not get their tax refunds is not amongst them.

Radke: You know congressman, when I change addresses, I always notify the IRS. It's fair to ask, why should we be trying so hard to give money to people who didn't care enough to collet it in the first place?

Sherman: Well, certainly if someone owes the IRS money, they make an effort to find that person. And when we're owed money, when taxpayers are owed money, likewise the IRS should.

Radke: What's the largest uncollected tax refund that you know about?

Sherman: The average of the largest three refunds that are unpaid in the country is over a quarter million dollars for each of those three, and I would suspect that that involves a death in the family. I can't imagine an individual aware of their own financial affairs not claiming a refund that large.

Radke: Congress Brad Sherman of suburban L.A. Thank you.

Sherman: Thank you, enjoyed being on your program.

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