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Assuming tomorrow is the last day to claim a refund on my 2018 US federal income tax return, instead of asking for the "amount I overpaid" to be refunded to me, may I apply it to my 2019 estimated tax even if I file my 2019 return after tomorrow?

Tomorrow, I plan to file my 2018 return. I haven't yet filed my 2019, 2020, or 2021 return.

I can claim a refund for 2018, but instead, to be safe, I think I'll apply the 2018 amount I overpaid to my 2019 estimated tax, since while I don't think I owe anything for 2019, 2020, or 2021, I'm not sure.

If I apply the 2018 amount I overpaid to my 2019 estimated tax and the 2018 amount I overpaid is more than my 2019 total tax, then:

  1. For 2019, will I avoid the Failure to File Penalty and any interest (assuming I file my 2019 return by Tax Day 2023)?
  2. On my 2019 return, can I apply the remainder of the 2018 amount I overpaid to my 2020 estimated tax?

In this way, I hope to "carry forward" the 2018 amount I overpaid to my 2019, 2020, and 2021 returns and then, on my 2021 return, ask for any remainder of it to be refunded to me, effectively giving myself more than three years to claim my 2018 tax refund. Is this allowed, and if so, is there a limit on how long I can carry forward the 2018 amount I overpaid? I plan on filing my 2019, 2020, and 2021 returns as soon as I can, hopefully by the end of this month, but not by tomorrow, which is why I'm asking this question.

Note: Even if I were to ask for the 2018 amount I overpaid to be refunded to me, IRS Tax Tip 2022-51: Time is running out to file for tax year 2018 and still get unclaimed refunds says: "The IRS may hold refund checks if the taxpayer has not filed for 2019 and 2020."

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  • ... and the government will be happy to get an interest-free loan from you for more years. Even if that works, wouldn't it be financially more savvy to file them all asap and get the money into your hands?
    – Aganju
    Apr 17 at 17:45
  • @Aganju maybe, but I'm the same person who made this comment. Also, I wrote above that "I plan on filing my 2019, 2020, and 2021 returns as soon as I can".
    – ma11hew28
    Apr 17 at 19:05

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As mentioned in the comments, you're giving the government a free loan. The government will be more than happy to allow you to roll the loan forward year after year for as long as you wish to subsidize it.

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