Don't Miss Out on Your 2020 Tax Refund: Steps to Find and Claim Unclaimed Funds
If you didn't submit a tax return in 2021, then you still have some time to claim your 2020 refund, but not a lot. Here's what to know.
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The IRS could owe you money from unclaimed 2020 refunds and it's set to disappear this spring. If you didn't file a tax return in 2021 because you forgot, or if you thought you didn't earn enough to bother with the stress of filing, the IRS could be holding some money for you. That said, it won't hang on to these funds for long.
Each year, toward the end of tax season, the IRS announces how much money it's holding in unclaimed tax returns. While the organization has yet to give an official dollar amount for how much it's holding from 2021, we can reference data from past years to have an idea of how much money you could receive. Last year, the IRS was holding $1.5 billion in unclaimed refunds. The average refund the IRS was holding last year waiting to be claimed was $893, which is a lot of money to leave sitting on the table.
By law, the IRS keeps these unclaimed tax refunds for three years. The agency usually transfers the money to the US Treasury after the deadline to claim your refund. You have till this spring to claim any 2020 tax money the IRS is holding.
Online tax software can help you complete your tax return to claim a tax refund for 2021 (you can also use your phone to scan your important tax documents), but you can't file 2021 returns electronically. You must file prior year tax returns on paper. To do that, you'll need to print and mail your 2020 tax return for 2021 to a specific regional IRS office, depending on where you live.
Read on to learn about how to claim your 2020 tax refund, including what to do if you're missing old forms and where to mail your 2020 tax return.
When is the IRS deadline to claim a tax refund from 2020?
By law, the IRS is required to hold on to unclaimed income tax refunds for three years, and filers have a three-year window from the original due date to claim their refunds. If you don't file to claim your tax refund after three years, the money becomes the property of the US Treasury, and you won't be able to get it back.
What is the due date this year? Back in 2021, the IRS extended the tax deadline from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021, due to continued financial strain from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the IRS has not yet announced the deadline this year to file and mostly likely won't till later this tax season, to be safe, and since April is the normal deadline, you should file your 2020 tax return by this year's April tax deadline -- April 15, 2024, for most tax filers -- to claim your money. We'll update this story once the IRS sets the filing deadline.
Since tax returns for prior years cannot be filed electronically, you'll need to ensure that your 2021 return is addressed to the proper IRS regional office and postmarked by that April 15 date for most taxpayers.
How can I find out if the IRS has an unclaimed tax refund for me?
There's no easy way for taxpayers to discover whether or not they're missing tax refund money from 2021. The only way to learn if the IRS is holding an old refund for you is to file a return for that year.
The IRS Where's My Refund tool can't help; it only reports the refund status of those who've already filed their taxes.
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How can I claim my 2020 income tax refund from the IRS?
To claim a refund for 2020, you will need to submit your 2020 tax return through the mail. Most tax software publishers keep their prior years' software available for three years. Tax software can help you complete IRS Form 1040 and all the other required forms and schedules, but it cannot e-file for you. You'll need to print, sign and properly address the printed tax return, which needs to be postmarked no later than April 15, 2024, for most tax filers.
To file an old 2020 tax return, you'll need to mail it to a specific regional IRS center listed on the last page of this year'sIRS Form 1040 instructions (these instructions are from last year's filing season, but the addresses of the regional IRS centers are still valid). The address you need to use depends on the state or US territory in which you live.
The IRS notes that the agency may continue to hold your 2020 tax refund if you have not filed tax returns for 2021 and 2022.
What documents do I need to file my 2020 income tax return?
You can find the tax forms for 2020 on the IRS forms page. If you're missing a W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 from 2019, the IRS recommends you request a copy from your employer or bank.
Can my unclaimed refund be kept by the IRS to cover tax debt?
If you think you were due a refund from 2021 but you don't receive one after you file your old tax return, all or part of your tax refund may have been offset, meaning it was used to pay past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support or other federal debts such as student loans.
Tax refund offsets that cover past-due federal taxes are managed by the IRS, and you should receive a notice from the agency explaining the offset. All other refund offsets are handled by the Bureau of Fiscal Services' Treasury Offset Program, which should also send you a notice if your tax refund was used to pay debts.
If you don't believe you owe back federal taxes and receive an offset notice from the IRS, you can call the agency at 800-829-1040 for more information. For all other debt-related tax return offsets, you can call the Treasury Offset Program at 800-304-3107 to find out more details.