If You Didn’t Claim Your 2019 Tax Refund, You’re Running Out of Time

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Time is running out for 1.5 million U.S. taxpayers to claim their unclaimed 2019 tax refunds, which total $1.5 billion.

The median tax refund for 2019 was $893, which means half of the refunds were more than $893 and half were less. But a million and a half people still haven’t claimed their money. They have until July 17 to do so.

“The 2019 tax returns came due during the pandemic, and many people may have overlooked or forgotten about these refunds,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “We want taxpayers to claim these refunds, but time is running out. We recommend taxpayers start soon to make sure they don’t miss out.”

Taxpayers May Have Forgotten to File Because of the Pandemic

Most Americans file a federal income tax return, but not everyone does. People in low-income households don’t have to.

Workers who earn less than the standard deduction aren’t required to file tax returns. In 2019, the standard deduction was $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.

But some people may have just forgotten or never gotten around to it. Tax returns for 2019 were due in 2020 — during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a pretty chaotic time for many.

“With the pandemic taking place when the 2019 tax returns were originally due, people faced extremely unusual situations,” the IRS commissioner said. “People may have simply forgotten about tax refunds with the deadline that year postponed all the way into July.

“We frequently see students, part-time workers and others with little income overlook filing a tax return and never realize they may be owed a refund.”

The IRS doesn’t charge a penalty for filing your tax return late if you’re due a refund.

Get Your Earned Income Tax Credit

By not filing a tax return, people stand to lose more than just their refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2019. Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. For 2019, the credit was worth as much as $6,557.

Those who are potentially eligible for the credit in 2019 earned up to the following incomes:

  • $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, and;
  • $15,570 ($21,370 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.

You can still get a refund for the Earned Income Tax Credit even if you don’t owe any income taxes.

How the IRS Can Help You File Your 2019 Return

Here’s one hurdle: You have to file your 2019 federal income tax return on paper, not electronically. You can do your return on tax software, but you’ll have to print it out and mail it to the IRS.

You’ll need documents. Start by asking your 2019 employer or employers for W-2 forms. But if you can’t get the forms that way, there’s another option.

“We encourage people to check their records and act quickly before the deadline,” Werfel said. “The IRS has several important ways that people can get help.”

If you can’t get your hands on your W-2 forms, you can order a free “wage and income” transcript at IRS.gov using the Get Transcript Online tool. For many taxpayers, this is by far the quickest and easiest option.

You’ll also need a 2019 tax form. You can get this online at the IRS’ Forms and Publications page or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Remember, if you don’t claim your tax refund, the government gets to keep it!

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.