How Long Do You Have To Claim Your Tax Refund?

Jason Garcia
Author: ,
Posted: March 7, 2023

The tax-filing deadline is right around the corner, and that can only mean one thing. Soon, you will be sitting down with a mountain of paperwork, crunching the numbers, and hoping for a refund.

In the end, you hope everything will work out well and that your long-awaited tax refund will soon be landing in your bank account. In the vast majority of cases filing a true and complete return is all it takes to get that refund, but given the millions of pages of paperwork moving through the system, it is all but inevitable that some returns will get lost in the shuffle.

Can I lose a tax refund?

If your tax refund does get lost, or if you forget to file a return and ask for it, you only have a limited window of time to set things right. If you fail to act quickly enough, the money you had coming will disappear back into the hands of the government. In all but extraordinary cases, you will no longer be able to claim it.

So how long do you have to claim your tax refund, and what happens to the money if you fail to act? Here are the basics you need to know before the current tax filing season draws to an end.

The IRS clock starts ticking on the date you filed the tax return in question so that filing date is critically important. You only have three short years to claim a refund you have coming, and once that three-year window has expired you will no longer be able to get the money.

That is why it is so important to keep copies of all the tax returns you file, along with the supporting paperwork that you used to get the numbers. You can keep those old tax returns in either paper form or digital – the important part is knowing where they are located and how to get them.

Can I Check Online?

It is also a good idea to keep track of any tax refunds you have coming, something the IRS can help you with. The IRS offers an easy-to-use Where’s My Refund function, and the page allows you to search for not only current-year tax refunds but older ones as well.

Hopefully, you will get the refunds you have coming for the current year and prior years as well. If all goes well, the refund will soon be sitting in your bank account, and the biggest decision you will have to make is what to do with those extra dollars. If you do fail to claim the refund, however, it will automatically become the property of the United States Treasury.

Once the money is back in the U.S. Treasury coffers, it will no longer be available, even if you can prove that it was once rightly yours. That is why acting fast when filing your tax return – and afterward is so important. Tracking your refund as it moves through the IRS system is the best way to ensure you get what you have coming, so act fast and grab the money while you can.


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