The IRS has $1.4 billion in unclaimed tax refunds. Is one yours?

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By

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ & Managing Editor, Growth

Hanna Horvath is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and managing editor for growth at Policygenius. She helps produce the Easy Money newsletter, and owns all growth initiatives for Easy Money. She recently passed her exam to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in November 2020.

Hanna's work has appeared in NBC News, Business Insider and Inc. Magazine. She is regularly quoted in top media outlets, including CNBC, Best Company and HerMoney. She has also appeared on the Money Moolala podcast and All's Fair podcast.

Prior to Policygenius, Hanna wrote for KNBC in Los Angeles and WNBC in New York. When she isn't writing, she's (often) running, (usually) cooking and (sometimes) doing photography.

Published March 20, 2019|2 min read

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If you haven’t filed your 2015 tax returns, you may be leaving money on the table. The IRS estimates there is $1.4 billion in unclaimed income tax refunds from 1.2 million taxpayers who didn’t file a federal income tax return in 2015.

“This is an ongoing issue of folks who either didn’t file for one reason or another, or are just missing refunds,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union.

The estimated median amount for these potential refunds is $879. Here’s a state-by-state look at the tax refund estimates.

How do you know if the IRS owes you money?

If you didn’t file a 2015 federal income tax return , the three-year window to claim a tax refund is nearly closed. If you miss the window, the government keeps the money.

The IRS may withhold your 2015 refund if you have not filed your tax returns for 2016 and 2017. The refund may also be used to pay any debts to the IRS or state tax agency. It could also be used for unpaid child support or past due federal debts, like student loans.

“If you have a $1,000 refund but are delinquent $600 in student loans, you are only going to get $400,” said Sepp. “There are joint agreements with the IRS and other federal agencies.”

How can you claim your tax return

First, you should you figure out if there’s a refund waiting for you. You can check your refund status on the IRS website.

Taxpayers have until April 15 to file their 2015 tax returns to collect their money. Taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts have until April 17.

If you’re owed a refund, there’s no penalty to file a late tax return. If you are missing any forms (here are some commonly forgotten ones), you can request new copies from your employer or bank. You can also access your income transcript online from the IRS. (Here’s an easy guide to filing your taxes.)

The only way you can actually claim the refund is by filing your return. Any organization contacting you and saying they have a tax refund waiting for you could be a scam, said Sepp.

Once you have your tax refund, try not to spend it all in one place. Here are six responsible ways to spend your refund.

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