“Time is running out for more than a million people to get their tax refunds for 2019,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “Many people may have overlooked filing a 2019 tax return due to the pandemic. We don’t want people to miss their window to receive their refund. We encourage people to check their records and act quickly before the deadline.”
That deadline is quickly approaching: July 17, 2023
The three year rule
Refunds have to be claimed within three years or they are forfeited to the government. The unclaimed $1.4 billion comes from over 1 million taxpayers who still haven’t filed returns for the 2019 tax year. Often the people who leave these refunds behind are young adults, college students, senior citizens and low-income taxpayers.
What’s new this year is the July 17 deadline versus the traditional April 15 deadline due to a filing delay during the pandemic.
Why refunds go unclaimed
Most readers of this June alert will breeze right past this friendly reminder. But not so fast, everyone who reads this tip probably knows of someone that will be donating their 2019 refund to the federal government. Here are some examples:
Forgetting withholdings. Even if you have very little income, your employer may have taken some money from your paycheck for federal tax withholdings. The only way to get it back is to file a tax return. This impacts part-time employees and students.
Not claiming refundable credits. Many tax credits are “refundable credits.” This means you can receive a refund even if you owe no income tax. Common examples available to students and parents are the earned income tax credit and the premium tax credit.
Missing information. Some people don’t file because they’ve lost the information they need. If the reason you can’t file is because you lost your data, you can request an online transcript from the IRS that will give you your wage, income and other tax information. You can also mail the IRS a Form 4506-T to get paper copies mailed to you. However, this will take between five and 10 business days, so don’t delay.
Fear of penalties. Sometimes taxpayers fail to file old returns because they think the IRS may penalize them. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are owed a refund.
Get your money
The IRS is great at tracking down people who owe them money, but not so great at reaching out to people they owe. This irony should motivate you to get your money back. To be safe, send your 2019 return by certified mail early enough so that the IRS receives it before July 17. Any refunds that aren’t claimed within the three-year due date will be gone forever, swallowed up by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Remember, just because you are not required to file a tax return doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. There are more than a billion dollars in unclaimed refunds – make sure you get yours.