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Don’t Lose Your 2018 Tax Refund Forever: 1.5 Billion Reasons To Act Now

By Julie Jason, originally posted on Forbes.com.

Do you know anyone who would turn down $1.5 billion, or at least a share of it?

The IRS does. More specifically, the IRS knows that an estimated 1.5 million taxpayers are owed unclaimed tax refunds totaling almost $1.5 billion. But they haven’t received the money because they did not file a 2018 tax return — and the time for doing so has nearly run out. You have until April 18, 2022, to file your return for the 2018 tax year and claim your 2018 refund.

The Clock Is Ticking

According to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, “By law, there’s only a three-year window to claim [2018 tax year] refunds, which closes with this year’s April tax deadline.” The tax-filing deadline for 2021 tax year returns is April 18, 2022 (or April 19, 2022, if you live in Maine or Massachusetts).

If you did not file your 2018 tax return, now is the time — or, you lose your right to claim the refund.

What if you originally filed an extension for tax year 2018? According to an IRS spokesperson, the three-year window is applied, meaning you have until the 2018 extension deadline (normally Oct. 15 for most taxpayers, but since that falls on a Saturday this year, it will be the next business day, Oct. 17) to file your return. For more information on refund claims, see IRS Publication 556.

What happens to the cash if you don’t file? Your refund “becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury,” according to the IRS.

State-By-State Refund Report

The IRS released statistics for each state related to 2018 tax returns, covering the estimated number of individuals who may be due a refund, along with the total potential refunds. According to the IRS, the estimated “midpoint” refund for the 2018 tax year is $813, meaning half of the refunds are more than $813, and half are less.

Topping the list for estimated number of individuals due a refund is California, with nearly 149,000, followed closely by Texas at more than 145,000. The Lone Star State, in turn, holds the lead in total potential refunds with $147 million, while California is second with nearly $140 million.

Where To Find A Form 1040 for 2018

You can find the applicable forms for tax year 2018 at IRS.gov. You also can call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). One catch: The forms for 2018 cannot be e-filed. Instead, they must be filed with the IRS center that is listed on the last page of the current instructions for IRS Form 1040.

Tax Refunds For Tax Year 2021

On the subject of e-filing and refunds, the IRS recently detailed the reasons why some of those who filed their tax returns electronically for the 2021 tax year have not received their refunds within a few weeks of filing (normally, you can expect your refund in less than 21 days).

According to the IRS, if a tax return has errors, is affected by identity theft or fraud, or is incomplete, it might be subject to a manual review, which can delay its processing. More information about identify theft can be found at IRS.gov’s Identity Theft Central.

Other areas that can result in a longer processing time for a return, according to the IRS, include:

  • The return requires a correction to the amount for the Child Tax Credit or Recovery Rebate credit.
  • It includes a claim for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit.
  • It includes Form 8379, “Injured Spouse Allocation.” That form can take up to 14 weeks to process.

The “Where’s My Refund?” tool at IRS.gov is the recommended place to check on the status of your tax refund. The IRS notes that information for the latest tax year is usually available within 24 hours following the IRS acknowledging receipt of the taxpayer’s e-filed return. If the taxpayer filed a paper return, he or she should wait four weeks before checking the refund status.

Numbers released by the IRS through the week of April 1 revealed that more than 91 million total tax returns had been received, with nearly 88 million of them being e-filed. The number of refunds was just over 63 million, with more than 60 million of them being direct deposit refunds. The total amount refunded topped $204 billion.

The Time Is Now

If you can’t file your 2021 tax return by the deadline, get an extension before April 18, 2022. Regardless of income, you can use Free File to receive a tax-filing extension until Oct. 17. Importantly, the extension does not give you more time beyond April 18 to pay taxes.

If you need to pay taxes, think about using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or a credit or debit card to make your tax payment before April 18 and extend your tax-filing deadline to Oct. 17.

What about those refunds from 2018? There are no extensions for filing your 2018 return. The time is now. File your 2018 tax return by paper (not electronically) before April 18 (or April 19, if you live in Maine or Massachusetts) to claim that refund.


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