DES MOINES, Iowa — Nearly $7 million worth of checks issued by the state of Iowa have gone uncashed in the last 19 months, and it's not easy to find out if any of that money is yours.
The Des Moines Register published Sunday an online database of 45,197 unclaimed checks for income tax refunds, contract work and a variety of other things. More than 96 percent of the checks come from human services, revenue and transportation departments.
The average check in the database is $153. Some of the largest uncashed checks belong to businesses like Qwest Corp., now known as CenturyLink, for $188,429, and aluminum producer Alcoa for $123,908.
Officials say the money isn't supposed to stay in the state's accounts and the checks are considered outdated when uncashed for six months. But, officials said, if there isn't a request for the check to be issued within five years, Iowa banks the bucks.
Farmer Dan Kregel says finding out his 2012 state income tax refund of $16,525 was never deposited was easy money. Now, he just has to wait six weeks for a new check.
Technical problems have kept the state from including its own unclaimed checks in the "Treasure Hunt" database on the state treasurer's website, but officials hope to fix that later this year.
Outdated checks and unclaimed wages are already part of the "Treasure Hunt" database, but unless someone found the check or knew who to talk to, they wouldn't have known Iowa was holding their money, said deputy treasurer Stefanie Devin.
"It's the reason we want to get that information on our website," Devin said. "You would be amazed if you knew how much people forget and just lose track."
Iowa Department of Revenue deputy director Stu Vos said linking the checks to the "Treasure Hunt" will make them visible and easier for Iowa residents to find and collect what they're owed.
"We want people to get their money because, by golly, they deserve it," he said.
St. Charles resident Timothy Sauvage thinks his $12,619 income tax refund from 2012 was sent back to the state because his mailbox was vandalized. He said he was surprised his accountants for his recently sold business didn't discover that the refund hadn't been deposited.
"It can certainly fall through the cracks, but at the same time, in this age of computers, you wouldn't think that would happen," he told the newspaper.