IRS says it has $1.5 billion in tax refunds waiting to be claimed

FILE - A U.S. Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 1040 Individual Income Tax form for the 2019 tax year is arranged for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on March 20, 2020. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty

The IRS estimates that nearly $1.5 billion in tax refunds remain unclaimed because people haven’t filed their 2019 tax returns yet. 

The agency on Thursday encouraged millions of people across the U.S. to submit a tax return to claim their refunds for tax year 2019, estimating that nearly 1.5 million people had yet to do so. 

The deadline is July 17, 2023.

Under the law, taxpayers typically have three years to file and claim their tax refunds. If they don't file within three years, the IRS said that money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

The average median refund for tax year 2019 was $893, the agency said.

"Time is running out for more than a million people to get their tax refunds for 2019," IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement. "Many people may have overlooked filing a 2019 tax return due to the pandemic. We don't want people to miss their window to receive their refund."

Taxpayers could lose more than just their refunds

The IRS said people have more time than usual to file 2019 tax returns to claim refunds. 

Typically, the normal filing deadline to claim old refunds falls around the April tax deadline, which was April 18, 2023, for 2022 tax returns. But the three-year window for 2019 unfiled returns was postponed to July 17, 2023, due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. 

The agency also noted how taxpayers could lose more than just their refund. 

"Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2019, the credit was worth as much as $6,557," the IRS said in its announcement. "The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes were below certain thresholds in 2019." 

Those who were potentially eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2019 had incomes below: 

  • $50,162 ($55,952 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children.
  • $46,703 ($52,493 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children.
  • $41,094 ($46,884 if married filing jointly) for those with one qualifying child.
  • $15,570 ($21,370 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.

The IRS added how individuals seeking a 2019 tax refund may have their checks held if they have not filed tax returns for 2020 and 2021. The refund will also be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or a state tax agency. It could also be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.

How to get documents to file 2019 tax return

The IRS listed several ways people can still gather the information they need to file for 2019. 

Request copies of key documents: Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for the years 2019, 2020 or 2021 can request copies from their employer, bank or other payers..

Use ‘Get Transcript Online’ at Taxpayers who are unable to get those missing forms from their employer or other payers can order a free wage and income transcript at using the Get Transcript Online tool. 

Request a transcript: Another option is for people to file Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, with the IRS 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. However, the agency noted how these written requests can take several weeks, so individuals should plan ahead so as to not miss the July 17, 2023, deadline. 

This story was reported from Cincinnati.