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More Than $1 Billion in 2020 Refunds Remain Unclaimed; May 17 Is Deadline to File

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 26, 2024

Almost one million Americans have not claimed their 2020 tax refunds, totaling more than $1 billion; they need to file by May 17 in order to receive them, the IRS announced.

The average median refund of $932 awaits almost 940,000 people who have yet to file their 2020 tax returns. The largest number of people potentially eligible for these refunds reside in Texas (93,400), California (88,200), Florida (53,200) and New York (51,400), according to the IRS.

By law, taxpayers usually have three years to file and claim their tax refunds. After that time period expires, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

Taxpayers have a little more time than usual to file to claim their refunds for 2020 tax returns. "Typically, the normal filing deadline to claim old refunds falls around the April tax deadline, which is April 15 this year for 2023 tax returns," the IRS said in its announcement. "But the three-year window for 2020 unfiled returns was postponed to May 17, 2024, due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. " The IRS issued Notice 2023-21 on Feb. 27, 2023, offering legal guidance on claims required by the postponed deadline.

“There’s money remaining on the table for hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t filed 2020 tax returns,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel in the announcement. “We want taxpayers to claim these refunds, but time is running out for people who may have overlooked or forgotten about these refunds. There’s a May 17 deadline to file these returns so taxpayers should start soon to make sure they don’t miss out.”

By missing out on filing a tax return, taxpayers stand to lose more than just their refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2020, the IRS pointed out Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2020, the EITC was worth as much as $6,660 for taxpayers with qualifying children.

For those taxpayers needing to file a 2020 tax return, the IRS reminded them of ways in which they can gather the information they need to file this tax return. Options include requesting copies of key documents such as Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for the years 2020, 2021 or 2022 from their employer, bank or other payers; ordering a free wage and income transcript at using the Get Transcript Online tool, which may be the quickest and easiest option for many taxpayers; or requesting a wage and income transcript from the IRS by filing a Form 4506-T.