What taxpayers need to know about getting their unclaimed 2017 tax refunds

April 12, 2021

IRS

The IRS reminds taxpayers they may have money waiting for them. An estimated 1.3 million taxpayers didn’t file a 2017 Form 1040 federal income tax return and are due a refund.

Here are some things taxpayers should know about these unclaimed refunds:

  • To collect the money, taxpayers must file their 2017 tax return with the IRS no later than this year's tax deadline, Monday, May 17.
  • When a taxpayer who is getting a refund does not file a return, the law gives them three years to claim that tax refund. If the taxpayer does not file a tax return within three years, the money goes back to the U.S. Treasury. For 2017 tax returns, the three-year window closes May 17, 2021.
  • The law requires taxpayers to properly address and mail the tax return to the IRS. It must be postmarked by the May deadline.
  • The IRS may hold the 2017 refunds of taxpayers who have not filed tax returns for 2018 and 2019.
  • The unclaimed money will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or a state tax agency. The money may also 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 tax refund. Many low-and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the earned income tax credit. For 2017, the credit was worth as much as $6,318. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The 2017 thresholds were:
    • $48,340 for those with three or more qualifying children;
    • $53,930 if married filing jointly
    • $45,007 for people with two qualifying children; $50,597 if married filing jointly
    • $39,617 for those with one qualifying child; $45,207 if married filing jointly
    • $15,010 for people without qualifying children; $20,600 if married filing jointly
  • Current and prior year tax forms are available on the Forms, Instructions and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling toll-free to 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 can order a free wage and income transcript at IRS.gov using the Get Transcript Online tool. Taxpayers can use the information on the transcript to file their tax return.
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