Do you ever stick your hand into the pocket of a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in a while and find a long-forgotten $20 bill? I think it’s absolutely one of the best feelings in the world. It’s already your money. It’s not like you earned anything extra. It’s just the feeling of, “Surprise! Free Money!”

The IRS has $1.3 billion dollars set aside in their version of couch cushion money – a fund for unclaimed tax refunds from 2005.

“Especially in these tough economic times, people should not lose out on money that is rightfully theirs,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “People should check their records, especially if they had taxes withheld from their paychecks but were not required to file a tax return. They may be leaving money on the table, including valuable tax credits that can mean even more money in their pockets.”

The law gives taxpayers a window of 3 years to file a tax return and claim their refund, but the window for 2005 expires on April 15, 2009. Some people may not have filed a return 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. If the 2005 return is not filed by April 15, 2009, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

If you’d rather see your tax refund in your pocket rather than the government’s, check your records and make sure your returns are up-to-date. Half of the people who qualify to claim a 2005 refund will receive more than $581.

However, if you file a 2005 return, your check will be held if you have not filed for 2006 and 2007, as well. Also, any amount owed to the IRS or debt for child support or past due student loans will be paid before you receive a check.

Taxpayers who need help can call the toll-free IRS help line at 1-800-829-1040. Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications web page of or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM.