"In some cases, people may not have filed their 2008 returns because they had too little income to require filing a tax return, even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments," the IRS said.
In those cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed within that time period, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.
There is no penalty for filing a late return that qualifies for a refund, the IRS said.
But the agency indicated that for taxpayers seeking a 2008 refund, their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2009 or 2010. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.
To file a 2008 return, go to www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html or call toll free 1-800-TAX-FORM. Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098 or 5498 for 2008, 2009 or 2010 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. If those efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from those year-end documents by ordering it on the agency's website, filing Form 4506-T, at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506t.pdf, or by calling 800-908-9946.