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"Didn't File a 2019 Tax Return Because You Didn't Owe? Act Now" by Julie Jason

Originally published: June 30, 2023 (distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication)

In case you're wondering how to do some "good" over this July Fourth weekend, I'll give you 1.5 million possibilities worth an estimated $1.5 billion. The 1.5 million figure is the number of people who need to file their 2019 tax returns before July 17, 2023, in order to get their share of $1.5 billion in 2019 tax refunds -- and in some cases, eligibility for that refund may come as a surprise (tinyurl.com/yc5u4nx6).

Why a surprise? You may not have filed a tax return because your earnings were below the tax filing threshold. You may still be eligible for a refund, according to the IRS (tinyurl.com/kmym4psd), based on:

     -- Having excess federal income tax withheld.

     -- Making estimated tax payments (or having money withheld from your retirement fund and Social Security disbursements).

     -- Qualifying for refundable tax credits.

     Among the refundable tax credits is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which "helps low- to moderate-income workers and families get a tax break," according to the IRS website (tinyurl.com/2jvcevxu). 

     You would potentially be eligible for an EITC for 2019 if you had an income below $50,162 ($55,952 if married filing jointly) and had three or more qualifying children. There are different income levels for two qualifying children, one qualifying child or no qualifying children -- see the 2019 listing at tinyurl.com/3wxs4upe for more details.

     In case you're wondering about the July 17 filing date, a taxpayer has three years to file his tax return and claim a refund.

     Why wasn't the deadline April 15? For the 2019 tax-year returns (which were filed in 2020), the Tax Day deadline was moved from April 15 to July 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. This year, July 15 falls on a Saturday. Therefore, a 2019 tax return will be "considered timely" if it is mailed on Monday, July 17, according to Notice 2023-21 (tinyurl.com/7sham5rn).

     There are two states that each have more than 100,000 people who are entitled to refunds for 2019 -- California (144,700) and Texas (135,300), according to IRS estimates. The potential refund (excluding credits) for the two states is a combined $284 million. My home state of Connecticut has 15,400 people who are entitled to 2019 refunds, totaling more than $16 million.

     If you need the 2019 tax forms, they are available at the IRS website on the Prior Year Forms and Instructions page (tinyurl.com/ymuzrpuz). You can also call 800-829-3676 to request the forms.

     What if you are missing important papers related to filing your 2019 taxes? You can request key documents such as Form W-2 or Form 1099 from your current or former employer. You also can use the Get Transcript Online tool at IRS.gov (tinyurl.com/3xsj43u8). You will need a photo ID if you are a new user, as you will have to verify your identity. Among the wage and transcript information available are Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 and 5498. 

     Note that the transcript file is limited to roughly 85 income documents, and if there are more documents than that, "the transcript will not generate," according to the IRS, and you will need to submit Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return (tinyurl.com/2z45j25t). But be aware that it can take five to 10 calendar days for delivery, and the deadline for 2019 refunds is July 17. So, act fast. 

     By the way, keep in mind that your refund check may be held if you "have not filed tax returns for 2020 and 2021. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or a state tax agency and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans," according to the IRS (tinyurl.com/3ca5jwzf).

     Again, if you haven't filed your tax return for 2019, but you believe you are owed a refund, it's worth the time -- and possibly the money -- to check it out.