IRS: $1.5 Billion in Tax Refunds Will Go to Treasury If They’re Unclaimed by July 15

July 2, 2020 Updated: July 2, 2020

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminded taxpayers that 2020 is the last year to claim their 2016 refunds.

Some 1.4 million Americans are owed more than $1.5 billion in unclaimed refunds during that year. Typically, taxpayers have about three years to file the federal tax returns to claim a refund, or the money will go to the Treasury Department.

The IRS estimated that people who should get refunds will, on average, receive about $861.

“The IRS wants to help taxpayers who are owed refunds but haven’t filed their 2016 tax returns yet,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement on July 1. “Time is quickly running out for these taxpayers. There’s only a three-year window to claim these refunds, and the window closes on July 15.”

Old tax returns cannot be filed electronically, and they can only be paper-filed, the IRS said.

There is no penalty for filing late if one is slated to receive a refund. However, individuals who have not filed their 2017 or 2018 tax returns may not receive their refund.

And, according to the IRS, “If you owe money to the IRS or a state tax agency or have unpaid child support or federal debts, your 2016 refund could be applied to those instead.”

Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the IRS will proceed to use the July 15 deadline for people to file their 2019 taxes.

Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin testifies during the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Hearings to examine the implementation of Title I of the CARES Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 10, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The federal tax filing and payment deadline had been extended to July 15 from April 15, due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, although some states have different dates for their filing deadlines. People can still request a filing extension until Oct. 15.

“After consulting with various external stakeholders, we have decided to have taxpayers request an extension if more time is needed,” Mnuchin said in a June 29 statement. “I would encourage Americans to file their taxes as soon as possible, so those who are due refunds can receive them quickly.”

Rettig added that “the IRS understands that those affected by the coronavirus may not be able to pay their balances in full by July 15, but we have many payment options to help taxpayers.”

The IRS previously reported that it has received 136.5 million individual income tax returns as of mid-June, suggesting that most Americans have already filed their taxes.