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NAPLES, Italy — Millions of dollars in tax refunds may go unclaimed by thousands of servicemembers who have yet to file a tax return for 2005.

The IRS reported more than 5,500 servicemembers who are due a refund from that year will lose out if they don’t file by April 15.

More than 50 percent of those troops are eligible for almost $600, and some are due refunds in the thousands.

In all, more than $1.3 billion is owed to all U.S. taxpayers from 2005. But to get the money, they also have to file a return for 2006 and 2007 if they haven’t already done so.

On the Navy base at Capodichino, tax preparers said they’ve seen a few clients filing back to 2006, but none yet looking to file for 2005.

While there is no penalty for filing a late return if the taxpayer is due a refund, there is a three-year statute of limitations after which all unclaimed money goes to the U.S. Treasury.

"Some soldiers receive bad advice when redeploying from a combat zone," said Army Capt. Kiana Sarraf, with the Mannheim, Germany, Tax Center. "Many soldiers mistakenly believe that there is no need to file a federal tax return if they were deployed all year."

Families with deployed servicemembers who fail to file this year could be losing out.

"For example, a soldier with three children who is married filing jointly could receive $3,000 for tax credits related to the children, plus potentially receiving over $4,000 for the earned income credit," Sarraf said.

Servicemembers may also be missing out on part or all of the money they could get from the 2007 stimulus checks.

"This was a separate payment based on a person’s 2007 tax return," Sarraf said. "Most deployed soldiers either did not receive this payment at all, or did not receive the full amount. The only way to get this money this year (in the form of the Recovery Rebate Credit) is to file your 2008 taxes."

Servicemembers in overseas locations have until June 15 to file their taxes if they’re due a refund. Taxpayers who owe money need to file by April 15 or pay a penalty.

The IRS Web site (www.irs.gov) offers complete information on tax regulations.

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