You would have been given a refund had you filed your 2011 tax return, but you never did. The IRS is holding onto $1 billion in unclaimed funds that will become the property of the federal government if tax filers don’t claim the funds before the end of the tax filing period. Over 1 million houses failed to file and are owed the money.
Tax payers have three years to file a return and claim funds that they are owed. The people that do not normally file when owed tax refunds are part-time workers or students who do not make much money and therefore feel they will not be getting a refund. But they pay more into the system than is required and therefore would have gotten a refund had they filed.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one big area of refunds that are not filed. These are refundable tax credits and therefore are given to filers that have not paid much into the system but have earned some income. In 2011 the EITC was as high as $5,700 if your family size was large enough. There have been stories about illegal immigrants gaining the right to file 3 years of returns to obtain three years of EITC. Those numbers are not yet included in this report by the IRS.
The EITC Not Always Claimed for Taxes by Steven Patterson