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 July 15, 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 July 15, 2023 if you need to in order to claim your refund; do not let your money go to the IRS!
Tax return or extension?

Did you know that the average refund amount in 2021 was about $2,781? It's expected to be a bit higher in 2022.

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 July 15, 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

For 2019, the credit was worth as much as $6,557. The EITC helps taxpayers with incomes below certain thresholds: 

  • $15,570 with no Qualifying Children ($21,370 if married filing jointly)
  • $41,094 with one Qualifying Child ($46,884 if married filing jointly)
  • $46,703 with two Qualifying Children ($52,493 if married filing jointly)
  • $50,162 with three or more Qualifying Children ($55,952 if married filing jointly).

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, you might be able to change your address online via the IRS website.
  2. Call 1-800-829-1040 to verify your mailing address or your bank account.
  3. If you can't update your mailing address online, download and mail Form 8822 to the address listed on the tax form.
  4. Next time, e-File your taxes and sign up for direct deposit. It is more accurate, safer, and you get your refund faster!

View the latest e-file and direct deposit statistics.

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

If you recently filed or e-filed a 2020 or 2021 Return and submitted inaccurate banking information - an incorrect digit, a closed account - then this is the data the IRS will use 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: the IRS is no longer issuing stimulus payments as of December 31, 2021). If you put in the wrong information for a banking account after selecting direct deposit to receive your refund, this unfortunately cannot be updated with the IRS. Once e-filed and accepted, the IRS will attempt to deposit the refund into the account. If there is an issue, it will be mailed to you to the address submitted on your tax return.

This 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, they will issue you a paper check to the address on record. This is also the information that will remain on IRS record 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 2020 and 2021 Returns, taxpayers who claimed an inaccurate amount of the first and second stimulus payments (third stimulus for 2021 Returns) would have seen their refund adjusted to the correct amount. When filing your 2021 Taxes, report your third stimulus payment amount exactly as you received it so your refund is not adjusted and delayed.

Generally, you will receive an IRS notice informing you of these changes. You can also find the reasoning via the IRS "Where's My Refund?" Tool.

Why is my refund so low 2021, 2022?

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 back as a refund.

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

If you have not done so already, 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.

Unclaimed IRS Tax Refunds

For Tax Year 2017, the unclaimed IRS income tax refund amount was over $1.3 billion. That is an estimated 1.3 million individual taxpayers who did not file a 2017 Federal Income Tax Return who were owed a refund. In addition, these taxpayers also likely missed a large amount of state tax refunds. You had until May 17, 2021 to file and claim these refunds. Unfortunately, it is now too late to claim a refund for a 2017 IRS and/or state tax return and you may have missed out on a refund that was due to 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.

There was an estimated 1.5 million taxpayers who may be owed around a total of $1.5 billion in tax refunds for 2018 Returns that have not been filed. The deadline to file to claim this money was April 18, 2022.

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 a refundable EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit). All these might mean a tax refund for you! See if you should or may 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
2021
April 18, 2022
April 18, 2025
Starts in January 2022. Register to TaxWin Now! e-File from January 1 - October 15 October 17, 2022.
Be sure to e-file your return or extension and pay by 4/18/2022! Late filing penalties are usually higher than late payment penalties.
2020
May 17, 2021
May 17, 2024
e-File option no longer available. Prepare, file your 2020 tax return on paper.
File a 2020 Return even if you can't pay your taxes as late filing penalties are higher than late payment penalties. Here are options to pay your taxes.
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.
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.
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 even if you can't pay your taxes on time. Generally, late filing penalties are higher than late payment penalties. Tax Payment Plan Options.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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!

  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.
  3. Call 1-800-829-1040 to verify your mailing address.

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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