IRS unclaimed refunds of $1.5 billion waiting for tax year 2016; taxpayers face July 15 deadline

July 1, 2020

Unclaimed income tax refunds worth more than $1.5 billion await an estimated 1.4 million individual taxpayers who did not file a 2016 federal income tax return, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

To collect refunds for tax year 2016, taxpayers must file their 2016 tax returns with the IRS no later than this year's extended tax due date of July 15, 2020.

In cases where a federal income tax return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity to claim a tax refund. If they do not file a tax return within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that there is no penalty for filing late when a refund is involved. Taxpayers seeking a 2016 tax refund should know that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2017 and 2018. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts 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.

By failing to file a tax return, people stand to lose more than just their refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2016. Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2016, the credit was worth as much as $6,269.

The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2016 were: