Thursday, April 30, 2009
7 News Investigations: Makes No Cents
Every year you shell out big bucks in income taxes to keep the federal government working, but Seven's Dave Kartunen has discovered a huge amount of money the feds are simply ignoring. Our investigation proves it Makes No Cents.
WSVN -- In the past few months, the government has been tossing around mind-boggling numbers: from million to billions to even trillions-- money for bailouts and budgets with taxpayers footing the bill, but we found, while the government is good about collecting your taxes, there's millions and millions of dollars owed to government agencies they haven't bothered to claim.
Bob Taylor, U.S. Dept. of Treasury: "I think it's important because it is money that should come into the coffers here, so it is available to use. Every penny does count."
We found money for the Department of Commerce Justice Defense, Homeland Security, Education, Labor, the FBI and many more. Here in Florida, the state sent us a list of thousands of accounts.
Rick Sweet, Florida Bureau of Unclaimed Property: "We are holding money for federal agencies."
These aren't liens or other forms of red tape, they're cold hard cash the feds could easily claim.
Rick Sweet: "The money is definitely theirs. We would love to return it to them. At whatever point they want to file a claim, we'd love to send it back to them."
In Massachusetts, there's even money for the federal reserve bank, the people responsible for printing money. You'd think they'd keep their accounting straight.
The money comes from uncashed checks, liquidated stocks, dividends, credits on over payments, refunds-- money that seems to be falling through the cracks of the same federal agencies that demand your tax dollars.
Tim Cahill, Massachusetts Treasurer: "If they can save a job, if they can improve their operations, especially in tough times, every little bit helps."
The state of Michigan is holding $33,000 for federal agencies, North Carolina $230,000, Texas has $230,000 and, in California, $346,000.
Jacob Roper, California Comptroller's Office: "I think the money should be returned to the federal agency as soon as possible."
And it's not like the agencies don't know the money is there. California sends two letters to every agency.
Jacob Roper: "They would get a letter notifying them that an account had been identified owed to them."
Massachusetts is also reaching out to the feds, but the state treasurer hasn't stimulated a response from the U.S. Treasury since 2003.
Tim Cahill: "Well, government in general is inefficient."
How inefficient? Federal officials admitted they now estimate the forgotten funds total close to $10 million nationwide.
Bob Taylor: "It's kind of stupid to just let it sit there."
And federal regulations say they are supposed to be claiming it.
Bob Taylor: "There's actually still a requirement on the books that individual agencies go after it."
Dave Kartunen: "But all the major federal agencies we talked to tell us they're looking into it. We did, and it Makes No Cents."