The Internal Revenue Service says more than a million people have left money on the table, and they'll lose it if they don't act soon -- and it's all from their 2018 tax refunds.
You could be owed hundreds of dollars. The IRS says 1.5 million people are owed a median refund of more than $800 because they haven't filed their 2018 tax return yet.
"That’s the median refund, half the refunds will be more, half will be less. But you don’t know until you prepare the return and file it," said Michael Devine of the IRS.
And this isn't new. The IRS says it happens every year.
"There’s a statute of limitations. That means you only have three years to file that 2018 return and claim the refund, or it's not your money anymore it goes to the dept of treasury," said Devine.
But the stakes are even higher now.
"You might be eligible for the earned income tax credit for 2018, that was more than $6,000. So the refund of any taxes that you paid in would be nice, but if you found out that you're eligible for the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit and other credits, you could be looking at a much larger refund," explained Devine.
If you don't file for 2020 or 2021, you could miss out on stimulus checks you didn't receive, or the Child Tax Credit, which was increased to $3,600 for kids under 6, and $3,000 for kids 6 to 17.
Is there a way people can check if they don't remember whether they filed in 2018? Is there a way they can check to see if they need to do it?
Yes, you can get a transcript from the IRS online or you can request over the phone or by mail.
You must also file your 2019 and 2020 returns in order to collect a 2018 refund owed. And any refund will be applied first to back-owed federal or state taxes, child support, or federal student loans.
"Maybe you owe in 2019, but that 2018 refund would help pay that debt off, so it’s very important, get current on your taxes as soon as you can," said Devine.
Here are instructions from the IRS to file a 2018 tax return:
Tax year 2018 returns must be filed with the IRS center listed on the last page of the current Form 1040 instructions PDF. Current and prior year tax forms (such as the tax year 2018 Form 1040, 1040-A and 1040-EZ) and instructions are available on the IRS.gov Forms and Publications page or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). However, taxpayers can e-file tax year 2019 and later returns.
Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for the years 2018, 2019 or 2020 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. Taxpayers who are unable to get missing forms from their employer or other payer can order a free wage and income transcript at IRS.gov using the Get Transcript Online tool. Alternatively, they can file Form 4506-T to request a wage and income transcript.
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