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  • Thomas E Murtha, MBA, CPA

Is there a Statute of Limitations on Tax Refunds? (Spoiler alert: yes)



The IRS has strict filing deadlines, and your payment must be in on time in order to be compliant. But the IRS has 3 years to come back and claim an error or ask questions about your tax return and 10 years to collect any payments you owe and didn’t make.


If you’re expecting a tax refund, though, there is a strict deadline or statute of limitation. If you go beyond it, you might forfeit your refund.


The Statute of Limitations for Tax Refunds


You have 3 years from the date the taxes were due to claim your refund or 2 years after paying your taxes, whichever is later. Since the tax filing deadline is usually April 15, you have three years from that date to claim a refund. If you don’t claim your refund in that time, the refund expires.


If you file an extension to file your taxes after April 15, the statute of limitations begins on the date you file your taxes then.


Are there Exceptions to the 3-Year Statute of Limitations?


The IRS grants an exception to the 3-year rule if you were unable to file your taxes and/or manage your affairs due to a physical or mental health issue. To claim this exception, however, you’ll need a letter from your physician stating the medical issue and make a claim that they believe the issue prohibited you from filing your taxes or handling your financial affairs on time.


Who Keeps your Money if you Don’t Collect your Refund?


If your tax refund goes unclaimed for over 3 years, the IRS keeps it. They claim it under ‘excess collection’. Once the IRS claims the funds, there is no way for you to go after it – the refund is gone after the 3-year mark.


Who Might get a Refund even if They Aren’t Required to File?


Many taxpayers don’t realize that even though they aren’t required to file a tax return, they may still be eligible for a refund. If any of these situations pertain to you, check if you might be eligible for a refund before the statute of limitations expires:


  • You had a part-time job but didn’t earn enough to file taxes. This doesn’t mean that the federal taxes withheld from your check aren’t excessive. If you overpaid, you might be due a refund.

  • You made estimated tax payments. If you didn’t make enough money to file a tax return but paid estimated taxes, you may have an overpayment due to you.

  • You might be eligible for a refundable tax credit. This means your credit can go beyond any money you owe and come back to you as a refund.


Final Thoughts


Don’t lose your tax refund! If you think you’re owed a refund, make sure you file your taxes and follow up on the refund within 3 years of the tax deadline. Waiting even one day beyond the deadline renders your refund useless and you’ll give your hard earned money back to the IRS.


For more information or assistance, please contact the tax professionals at Henson and Murtha today.

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