Unclaimed Income Tax Refunds by Taxpayers

The IRS claims to annually hold onto around $1.5 billion in refunds for those who have not filed a return each year. For 2019 federal returns, after April 18, 2023, you will no longer be able to claim this refund. Even though you can no longer e-File 2019 Returns, prepare and mail your 2019 Tax Return Forms before April 18, 2023 in order to claim your refund; do not let your money go to the IRS! If you are getting a refund on your 2020 or 2021 returns and you haven't filed them yet, don't wait until the last minute! Prepare and file your 2020 or 2021 returns to get your refund.
Tax return or extension?

Did you know that the average refund amount in 2022 was about $3,039? It's expected to be a bit higher in 2023.

Is there a tax refund waiting for you? You have three years to file a tax return and claim your refund and you will not face a late filing penalty for doing this! For example, the deadline to claim a 2018 tax refund was April 18, 2022. As it stands now, taxpayers who have not yet filed a 2019 Tax Return and are owed a refund will have until April 18, 2023 to claim this amount before it goes to the U.S. Treasury. Again, you will not face late penalties if you are owed a tax refund. You do not need to file a tax extension if you do not owe taxes

By failing to file a 2019 Tax Return, taxpayers stand to lose more than just their refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2019 as many low and moderate income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC

Don't become a statistic! Read on for the latest data on unclaimed tax refunds due to wrong mailing addresses or incorrect bank account numbers. In addition, learn how to claim the refund you deserve! See options to receive your tax refund.

Bounced Refund Bank Deposit, Returned Refund Checks

Each year, there are billions of dollars of refund checks that are undelivered due to incorrect mailing addresses or wrong bank account numbers. What if you moved or changed bank accounts since you filed your tax return and the IRS does not have your new mailing address or new bank account number? Read on to learn how to update this information.

How to Claim a Missing Tax Refund Payment

If you are missing a refund, follow the steps below and read the examples for specific information that may pertain to your situation. The most common reason for a missing refund is a failed direct deposit; if the deposit fails, the IRS will attempt to issue you a check.

  1. If your refund check was returned to the IRS, call 1-800-829-1040 to verify your mailing address.
  2. To update your mailing address with the IRS, download and mail Form 8822 to the address listed on the tax form.
  3. Next time, e-File your taxes and sign up for direct deposit. It is more accurate, safer, and you get your refund faster!

If you lost your refund check you should initiate a trace with the IRS. You can use the IRS's automated system to start this by calling 800-829-1954. However, if you filed with the Married Filing Joint status, you can fill out and mail in Form 3911 - Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund to begin the trace process.

What happens when I submit the wrong bank information on my tax return?

If you recently filed or e-filed a 2022 Return, the IRS will use the banking information you provided to issue your tax refund. Additionally, this is the account that they will use to issue any future stimulus checks or Economic Impact Payments (Note: As of December 31, 2021 the IRS is no longer issuing stimulus payments). If you provided the wrong information for a banking account after selecting direct deposit to receive your refund, this unfortunately cannot be changed with the IRS. Once your return is e-filed and accepted, the IRS will attempt to deposit the refund into the account. If there is an issue, your refund  will be mailed to you as a refund check to the address submitted on your tax return.

The bank information you provided for your refund cannot be fixed by filing a tax amendment. Be sure that, at the very least, your address is current and accurate when you submit your return. If your direct deposit is failed for any reason, the IRS will issue you a paper check to the address on record. This is also the information that will remain on IRS records until it is changed either by updating your address or filing a tax return the following year.

Why am I missing part of my tax refund?

Only the IRS - not eFile.com nor any other tax preparation platform - adjusts refunds. If you received a smaller refund amount than what was on your return, the most common reason for this is a refund offset. All or some of your refund may have been used to pay any past-due federal tax, child support, alimony payments, state tax, or other federal debts.

For 2021 Returns - Taxpayers who claimed an inaccurate amount for third stimulus payment would have seen their refund adjusted to the correct amount. If you still need to file your 2021 return, be sure to report your third stimulus payment amount exactly as you received it so your refund is not adjusted and delayed.

For 2020 Returns - Taxpayers who claimed an inaccurate amount for the first and second stimulus payments would have seen their refund adjusted to the correct amount. If you still need to file your 2020 return, be sure to report your first and second stimulus payments amounts exactly as you received them so your refund is not adjusted and delayed.

Generally, you will receive an IRS notice informing you of any changes to your refund or taxes due amounts. You can also find the reason via the IRS "Where's My Refund?" Tool.

Why is my refund so low 2022, 2023?

If you received a raise or higher salary during the year, your income may have moved you up to a higher tax bracket. As such, if you did not adjust your income tax withholding, then this would effectively lower your refund since your withholding is based on a smaller salary. If your income situation changed during the year, utilize the free W-4 tools on eFile.com to create and submit a new W-4.

Other reasons for lower tax refunds include adjusted tax credits or new tax laws or reforms. Do know that, in most cases, a large tax refund is your money that you handed over to the IRS throughout the year only to get it back as a refund.

What do I do if I did not receive my 2021 or 2020 Refund or other previous year refund?

The IRS Where's My Refund tool is now showing the refund status for the 3 most recent tax years (2022, 2021, 2020). You can try and get a refund status via the tool for your 2021 or 2020 refund.

If you cannot get any information via the IRS's Where's My Refund tool, you can also contact the IRS regarding this. The IRS may be holding your refund if they are waiting for identity verification or additional resources. Generally, they will contact you about this, but a letter they sent may have not been received, for example. There are also many instances where the refund simply fails to go through and you just need to contact the IRS to have them send it. This seems simple, but it is as if the IRS just forgot to "flip a switch" and send your refund to you.

View the latest e-file and direct deposit statistics.

Unclaimed IRS Tax Refunds

For Tax Year 2018, the unclaimed IRS income tax refund amount was over $1.5 billion! That is an estimated 1.5 million individual taxpayers who did not file a 2018 Federal Income Tax Return who were owed a tax refund. In addition, these taxpayers also likely missed a large amount of state tax refunds. You had until April 18, 2022 to file and claim these refunds. Unfortunately, it is now too late to claim a refund for a 2018 IRS and/or state tax return and you may have missed out on a refund that was due you! Still, it is recommended to file the return regardless. Since it cannot be e-filed, see previous year tax forms you can fill out and mail.

Maybe you thought your income was so low that you did not have to prepare and e-File or file a tax return. Even if this was the case, did you know that you still might be eligible for a tax refund? For example, you might have had a job and taxes were withheld every month, but you did not file a tax return because you had too little income. You might still be able to claim this money in form of a tax refund. Or maybe taxes were not withheld, but you might be eligible for the refundable EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit). A refundable tax credit means that if you qualify for the credit, and the credit is larger that the amount of tax you owe, you will get a refund for the difference. For example if you owe $400 in taxes and you qualify for a $1,000 refundable credit, you will receive the $600 difference as a tax refund.

All these might mean a tax refund for you! See if you should or might want to file a tax return.

In addition, the IRS has estimated figures for those who failed to file a previous year state tax return, accounting for millions of dollars worth of state tax refunds. File your previous federal and state tax returns before you no longer have access to your hard-earned money!

When to File Taxes By

Generally, you have three years from the original tax return deadline to file the return and claim your refund. After three years, the refund will go to the government, specifically the U.S. Treasury. Don't miss out on the refund that is due you!

Refer to the table below for deadlines to claim tax refunds (or pay taxes owed) for a specific tax year.

Tax Year
Tax Return Deadline
File Return and Claim Refund By
Claim Refund Instructions
Taxes Owed Instructions
2022
April 18, 2023
April 18, 2026
Starts in January 2023. Register to TaxWin Now! e-File from January 1 - October 15 October 18, 2023.
Be sure to e-file your return or extension and pay by 4/18/2023! Late filing penalties are usually higher than late payment penalties.
2021
April 18, 2022
April 18, 2025
e-File option no longer available. Prepare, file your 2021 tax return on paper.
File a 2021 Return even if you can't pay your taxes. Here are options to pay your taxes.
2020
May 17, 2021
May 17, 2024
e-File option no longer available. Prepare, file your 2020 tax return on paper.
If you owe 2020 Taxes, file your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and late tax payment penalties and interest.
2019
July 15, 2020
July 15, 2023
e-File option no longer available. Prepare, file your 2019 tax return on paper.
If you owe 2019 Taxes, file your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and late tax payment penalties and interest.
2018
April 15, 2019
April 18, 2022
You can no longer e-File your 2018 Return nor claim a refund. Prepare, file your 2018 tax return on paper.
If you owe 2018 Taxes, file your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and late tax payment penalties and interest.
2017
April 18, 2018
May 17, 2021 - expired
You can no longer e-File your 2017 Return nor claim a refund. Prepare, file your 2017 tax return on paper.
If you owe 2017 Taxes, file your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2016
April 18, 2017
July 15, 2020 - expired
You can no longer claim a 2016 Tax Refund. Prepare, file your 2016 tax return on paper.
If you owe 2016 Taxes, file your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2015
April 16, 2016
Expired
You can no longer claim a 2015 Tax Refund. Prepare, file your 2015 tax return on paper.
File your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2014
April 15, 2015
Expired
You can no longer claim a 2014 tax refund. Prepare, file your 2014 tax return on paper.
File your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2013
April 15, 2014
Expired
You can no longer claim a 2013 tax refund.  Prepare, file your 2013 tax return on paper.
File your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2012
April 15, 2013
Expired 
You can no longer claim a 2012 tax refund.  Prepare, file your 2012 tax return on paper.
File your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2011
April 17, 2012
Expired 
You can no longer claim a 2011 tax refund. Prepare, file your 2011 tax return on paper.
File your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2010
April 18, 2011
Expired
You can no longer claim a 2010 tax refund. Prepare, file your 2010 tax return on paper.
File your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.
2009
April 15, 2010
Expired 
You can no longer claim a 2009 tax refund. Prepare, file your 2009 tax return on paper.
File your tax return as soon as possible to reduce late filing fees and penalties and interest.

Late Tax Return Filing Penalties

If you are eligible for a refund, there is generally no IRS late filing penalty for filing your return late after the IRS Tax Due Date!

  1. Use the FREE eFile.com tax calculator and estimate your tax refund.
  2. Download and complete prior year tax return forms. Remember that you must use the tax form for the tax year for which you are filing a tax return. Unfortunately, you can only do this by mailing in a paper tax return since the IRS does not accept previous year tax returns electronically on eFile.com.
  3. If you owe taxes on your previous return and you need to calculate what penalties and interest you might owe the IRS, use our Free PENALTYucator tool to estimate this.

Find out if you need to file a tax return or qualify for a refund by using our free tax educator tools. Learn about options to receive your tax refund; tax refund check or direct deposit? Additionally, see the advantages of direct deposit. Once you have filed, check your current tax refund status.

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