Steve Wartenberg
The Columbus Dispatch

Time is running out for Ohio residents owed an estimated $31 million for unclaimed 2008 tax credits and refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.

The three-year window to claim the money slams shut on April 17 — the same day as the 2011 tax-filing deadline.

The IRS estimates 36,400 Ohio residents are eligible for part of the $31 million in unclaimed deductions.

Nationally, about 1 million people are collectively owed just more than $1 billion.

Those eligible for the windfall seem to fall into two categories, said Ohio IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins.

The first are those who earned minimum wage or just above, paid withholding taxes in 2008 and did not file federal income-tax returns because they made less than the minimum filing requirement.

Many of these workers might have paid more in withholding taxes than required, Jenkins said.

“Their thinking is, they don’t want to take the time, that it’s a nuisance,” she said of filing federal taxes. “But if it only takes a couple hours, and you get back a couple hundred bucks, you’re paying yourself a good salary for your time.”

People in this category have until April 17 to fill out and file the 1040EZ form.

The second group owed refunds are those who filed a 2008 tax return but neglected to claim one of the many federal tax credits for which they were eligible.

This list includes an adoption credit up to $11,650, an earned-income tax credit up to $4,824, a child tax credit of up to $1,000 per child, a lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 and energy-saving credits up to $500.

The number of credits can often confuse people, said Theodore Johnson, a certified public accountant with Parms & Co. and board member of the Ohio Society of CPAs.

“People can get lost in them,” he said.

“When they come to us, they have a sense that they may be eligible or not know if they’re eligible because there can be income limitations.”

Forms for the 2008 tax year can be found online at www.IRS.gov.