The Internal Revenue Service says it has almost $1.5 billion in leftover tax refunds for 2019 taxpayers who haven’t filed—but the time remaining to claim this money is slipping away.
According to the agency, as many as 1.5 million taxpayers could benefit from the unclaimed refunds, but they must file a tax year 2019 return to get it. The median refund is calculated to be $893.
Expanded three-year filing window is about to close
Taxpayers usually have three years in which to file and claim a refund. After that point, the money goes into the government’s pocket. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual deadline for filing 2019 returns for refund was pushed back to July 17, 2023. Notice 2023-21 has more details.
The IRS has broken down the list of refunds on a state-by-state basis, providing some insight into which parts of the US still need to file tax year 2019 returns:
- Texas leads the list in terms of total potential refunds. Lone Star State taxpayers could pick up more than $142 million if they file.
- California has the highest estimated number of taxpayers who need to file to get it: 144,700.
- New Hampshire, with roughly 6,900 affected taxpayers, has the highest median refund in the group: $974.
- Vermont brings up the rear with just 3,100 estimated taxpayers who could benefit, with estimated refunds totaling just over $3 million.
Things to consider before filing
It’s worth noting that filing could have benefits beyond just the outstanding tax refund. A number of low- and moderate-income filers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC. In 2019, the EITC was worth as much as $6,557 to qualified taxpayers.
Despite four years passing, there are still options available for tracking down the various documents needed to file. Forms W-2, 1098, 1099, and 5498 may be available through the taxpayers’ employer, bank or other institution. The Get Transcript Online tool on IRS.gov can help taxpayer quickly track down forms that might be unavailable from other sources.
Taxpayers who need to file a paper Form 4506-T can request a “wage and income transcript” showing data from their W-2, 1099, 1098, and other financial forms. Keep in mind, though, this option is by far the slowest, taking weeks for the IRS to send the results.
As with all refunds, it’s worth remembering that the amount the taxpayer actually gets may be smaller than expected, depending on the circumstances. This decrease in expected refund is often due to 2019 tax refunds being held back to pay tax owed if a taxpayer hasn’t filed for 2020 and 2021. Additionally, a tax refund could be used to pay any tax debt owed to the IRS or state tax agency or offset unpaid child support and past-due student loan debt.