Some people in the United States are not required to file an income tax return (e.g. their income is too low). However, they could be entitled to a refund of wages withheld, or a credit such as the Earned Income tax credit. They need to file a return in order to get the refund or credit.

If such a person does not file by April 15, do they forfeit their refund/credit?

  • Noteworthy: The threshold for tax filing in 2018 tax season was $12,000. If you earned more than $12,000, you are obligated to file a return regardless if the IRS owes you a refund or you owe them more taxes.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


You have 3 years to claim a refund, so if you were owed a refund for 2018 you can claim it by filing a 2018 tax return up until the April 15, 2022 tax deadline (exceptions sometimes move the date a couple days for specific states). The treasury keeps unclaimed refunds after this 3-year period.

Today (Tax deadline 2019) is the last day to claim a refund from tax year 2015. Each year the IRS publishes something like this:

IRS: Refunds of $1.4 billion waiting to be claimed by individuals who have not filed federal income tax returns for 2015

As for tax credits I'm not aware of any that have a timely filing requirement. I know the big ones like child tax credit, earned income tax credit, and education credits do not have a timely filing requirement so the 3-years to file rule applies, but I'm not sure if this is true for all tax credits.

  • 1
    Small point but may matter to some: for EIC, (CTC and) ACTC, and AOTC, since 2016 to claim you must have SSN(s) or ITIN(s) 'issued' (which is interpreted to include validly applied for) by the return due date including extensions, even if you actually claim on a late-filed or amended return. If you need an ITIN for a refundable credit and don't qualify for a W-7 exception so you must file W-7 attached to a return, the requirement to file W-7 timely means you must also file the attached return timely. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 3:22

You have 3 years to claim a refund, from the date it is due. 1

So if you didn't file your 2015 taxes yet,
but you did request an automatic extension for your 2015 return,
you can file and get your 2015 refund up until Aug 15, 2019 (instead of today April 15).

There is also another extension you can file that extends the due date until October 15, but I think that has to be done by a tax preparer.

Remember the topic is refunds... if you owe the IRS today (15-APR-2019) you have to pay what you owe by today. If you file an automatic extension it moves the due date of the paperwork (the filing)... it does not move the date you owe any money which you may owe.

This is not intended as tax advice, it's just ramblings from my personal experience.

1 This could be off a few days, see first comment.

  • 1
    Good point about extensions, but your 2016 example should be 2015. 2015 was due April 2016, so 3 years puts us to 2019. Also it's not from the date it is due, it's based on the filing deadline of the third year. So, if the year you missed had an April 17 deadline that doesn't mean you can wait until April 17 3 years later, it's based on the filing deadline of that 3rd year, sometimes that means you get a couple days more or less than 3 years.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 20:16
  • @HartCO Yikes... good catch on the 2015. Wasn't aware of it being the third filing deadline... hence my disclaimer at the end. I will fix the dates. Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 20:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .