The IRS enters every tax season with a backlog of unprocessed tax returns from prior years. For 2018, the IRS announced that it has an estimated $1.5 billion worth of unclaimed tax refunds from more than 1.5 million Americans who did not file. The median unclaimed tax refund from 2018 is $813. For many low- and moderate-income workers who may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and did not file for 2018, the credit might be worth as much as $6,431.
The law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity to claim a tax refund, according to the IRS. If they do not file a tax return within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.
Unfortunately, if you are unsure if you would be due a refund from 2018, there is no way to check first. To find out, you must file your 2018 taxes. Also, because tax returns for prior years cannot be filed electronically, you’ll need to ensure that your 2018 filing is addressed to the proper IRS regional office listed on this year’s Form 1040 and postmarked by April 18 (taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts have until April 19 this year due to the local observance of Patriots’ Day on April 18).
If you think you are owed a 2018 refund and do not receive one after filing the old return, you might have all or part of your expected refund offset. Offsets are refunds garnished to pay past-due federal or state income taxes, child or spousal support, or federal student loan or unemployment compensation debts. If this is the case, you should be receiving an explanation notice from the IRS or the Treasury Offset Program of the Bureau of Fiscal Services.
The deadline is near for your potential 2018 tax refund. If there’s a possibility of receiving owed money instead of relinquishing it to the U.S. Treasury, it might be a good idea to file your back taxes.