The IRS Has $1.3 Billion in Unclaimed Income Tax Refunds from 2017 Returns

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unclaimed income tax refunds worth more than $1.3 billion await an estimated 1.3 million taxpayers who did not file a 2017 Form 1040 federal income tax return, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“The IRS wants to help taxpayers who are due refunds but haven’t filed their 2017 tax returns yet,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Time is quickly running out for these taxpayers. There’s only a three-year window to claim these refunds, and the window closes on May 17. We want to help people get these refunds, but they will need to quickly file a 2017 tax return.”

The IRS estimates the midpoint for the potential refunds for 2017 to be $865 — that is, half of the refunds are more than $865 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 2017 tax returns, the window closes May 17, 2021, for most taxpayers. The law requires taxpayers to properly address, mail and ensure the tax return is postmarked by that date.

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The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2017 tax refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2018 and 2019. 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 2017. Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2017, the credit was worth as much as $6,318. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2017 were:

  • $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children;
  • $45,007 ($50,597 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children;
  • $39,617 ($45,207 if married filing jointly) for those with one qualifying child, and;
  • $15,010 ($20,600 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.
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Current and prior-year tax forms (such as the tax year 2017 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 2017, 2018 or 2019 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.

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First-time filers and EIP eligible

The IRS is reminding first-time filers and those who usually don’t have a federal filing requirement that they must file a 2020 tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC), if they were eligible but did not receive the first or second Economic Impact Payment (EIP), or received less than the full amounts. The IRS offers free options to prepare and file a return at How to File on IRS.gov. Taxpayers who received the full amounts of both EIPs cannot claim the RRC and should not include any information about the payments on their 2020 tax return.

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