WASHINGTON ― Unclaimed income tax refunds totaling almost $1.4 billion may be waiting for an estimated 1.2 million taxpayers who did not file a 2015 Form 1040 federal income tax return, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
To collect the money, these taxpayers must file their 2015 tax returns with the IRS no later than this year’s tax deadline, Monday, April 15, except for taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts, who have until April 17.
“We’re trying to connect over a million people with their share of $1.4 billion in potentially unclaimed refunds for 2015,” said IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. “Students, part-time workers and many others may have overlooked filing for 2015. And there’s no penalty for filing a late return if you’re due a refund.”
The IRS estimates the midpoint for the potential refunds for 2015 to be $879 — that is, half of the refunds are more than $879 and half are less.
In cases where a federal income tax return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity to claim a tax refund. If they do not file a tax return within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. For 2015 tax returns, the window closes April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers. The law requires taxpayers to properly address, mail and ensure the tax return is postmarked by that date.
The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2015 tax refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2016 and 2017. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or a state tax agency and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.
By failing to file a tax return, people stand to lose more than just their refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2015. Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2015, the credit was worth as much as $6,242. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2015 were:
$47,747 ($53,267 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children;
$44,454 ($49,974 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children;
$39,131 ($44,651 if married filing jointly) for those with one qualifying child, and;
$14,820 ($20,330 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.
Current and prior year tax forms (such as the tax year 2015 Form 1040, 1040-A and 1040-EZ) and instructions are available on the IRS.gov Forms and Publications page or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for the years 2015, 2016 or 2017 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. Taxpayers who are unable to get missing forms from their employer or other payer can order a free wage and income transcript at IRS.gov using the Get Transcript Online tool. Alternatively, they can file Form 4506-T to request a wage and income transcript. A wage and income transcript shows data from information returns received by the IRS, such as Forms W-2, 1099, 1098, Form 5498 and IRA contribution information. Taxpayers can use the information from the transcript to file their tax return.