Recently my mother filed her taxes for this, and the previous year but it's unclear of how long we can go back.

The IRS representative officially said due to the statue of limitations we can't file back longer than some years, but they never said how long.

Due to various issues in the past probably ten years, she hasn't filed. However, the representative stated if she owned them money they would have done so for her; which implies that she's probably have had a sum of money due back to her for some time.

So for clarifications how far back can she file? I'm failing to find an official document on this.

  • The IRS doesn't actually know how much you owe (if anything) until you file, and not at all if you don't file. If they have 'information reports' (W-2 and 1099) on enough income to show you probably owe significant tax they will generate a 'Substitute For Return' (SFR, usually Automated SFR = ASFR) and start trying to collect using that figure -- but only for larger accounts because they are chronically understaffed (and worse every year). They don't release any figures on this AFAICT, but probably they won't select you for less than a few $k. May 27, 2018 at 12:27
  • Also the 'return' is the document you send in; if you get money back that's a 'refund'. May 27, 2018 at 12:29

1 Answer 1


You must claim any refund within 3 years of the original deadline. So, she'd have to file her 2014 tax return by the April 17, 2018 deadline to get a refund for 2014.

Most states use the same timeline, some longer, I'm not aware of any that have a shorter period. Some states do require an extension be filed even if a refund is owed, not sure how that practically works. Couldn't easily find a WV specific answer (just fired off an email to the WV State Tax Department, will amend if answered).

Edit: WV State Tax Department responded to my inquiry and confirmed they use same deadline as IRS.


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