The law gives taxpayers who fail to file their income taxes three years to submit a return and claim a refund. Generally, the three-year countdown starts on the due date of the return, including extensions.

Over a million Americans fail to file a tax return every year. By not filing, many of these people risk losing any refund they’re owed, which averages more than $600, according to Internal Revenue Service estimates.

The law gives procrastinators three years to submit a return and claim a refund. The three-year countdown starts on the original due date of the return or the extension due date if an extension was filed. Late filers who owe no taxes don’t pay any penalty, and might even be eligible to get credits beyond the money withheld from their wages.

Time matters with tax refunds

April 15, 2020, is the last day to file your original 2016 tax return to claim a refund. If you received an extension for the 2016 return then your deadline is October 15, 2020.

If you miss the deadline, any excess in the amount of tax you paid every paycheck or sent as quarterly estimated payments in 2016 goes to the U.S. Treasury instead of to you. You also lose the opportunity to apply any refund dollars to another tax year in which you owe income tax.

Under certain conditions the IRS will withhold your refund check. It can be used to pay any past-due student loans, child support and federal tax debt you owe. The IRS can also hold refund checks when the two subsequent annual returns are missing. That means you should file returns for 2017 and 2018 as soon as possible. For the 2017 tax year, with a filing deadline in April of 2018, the three-year grace period ends April 15, 2021.

Obstacles to your tax refund

One of the hills you have to climb to claim your refund is gathering the necessary documents. If you kept your financial records, you have an easy ascent. If not, then you must build time into your filing schedule to obtain a copy of your W-2 from your employer and any 1099 forms you’re missing from your bank and other payers.The IRS can help if your document search fails. You can ask the agency for a transcript of these information returns by filing Form 4506T, “Request for Transcript of Tax Return,” and checking off Box 8. Allow 10 business days for a response.The IRS also accepts online requests (at irs.gov) and phone transcript requests (at 800-908-9946). The 1040 series of tax forms can be downloaded from the “Prior Year Returns” link on agency’s “Forms and Publications” web page or ordered by calling (800) 829-3676. You have the option of e-filing or mailing a paper return. Regardless of the filing method you choose, be sure you sign, as the IRS does not issue refunds to late filers without their signature.

If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, contact one of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100, Allen Park 313.388.7180,
Grayling 989.348.4055, Royal Oak 248.399.7331, or St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

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