A spokesperson from the Internal Revenue Service told reporters recently that Florida residents are owed about $61 million in unclaimed tax returns from 2009. Over 62,000 Floridians did not file an income tax return that year and would have received a refund if they had.

For Florida residents who are still suffering from the lagging economy and underwater mortgages, these tax refunds could offer some welcome relief when they need it most. Unfortunately, in a few days, the refunds will no longer be available when the three-year statute of limitations expires on April 15.

While the median amount per person is at about $577, the total impact of a rightfully claimed $61 million could give the local economy a much-needed boost. Getting a lump sum payment like that, along with this year’s tax refund, could also go a long way towards becoming current on past-due debts or paying down a chunk of a credit card that is collecting interest.

In addition to a standard tax refund, the unfiled 2009 returns may have also enabled Floridians to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was worth as much as $5,657 that year.

Many taxpayers are nervous about filing a late tax return because of possible penalties, but only taxpayers who owed additional money that they did not pay that year would be subject to fines. People who simply failed to claim their refund can still file and receive the money up until this year’s tax day.

Tax day can be a good time to reassess for Floridians who are struggling with their finances. Looking to the past year’s earned income and examining current debts can help make the evaluation about a potential bankruptcy filing much easier.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “$61 million in unclaimed 2009 tax refunds still out there in Florida,” Donna Gehrke-White, March 20, 2013.

Information about taxes and bankruptcy can be found on our Orlando bankruptcy page.