Your Money, Your Future
Your Money, Your Future

The $1B IRS windfall you might not know is yours

Key Points
  • Payout depends on whether you filed a 2013 return
  • Cash could go to as many as 1 million taxpayers
  • You must file the old return by April 18
$1 billion in tax refunds is waiting to be claimed

Already filed your 2016 return? Good. But you might not be square with Uncle Sam just yet.

The IRS said earlier this spring that it is holding more than $1 billion in unclaimed tax refunds for an estimated 1 million taxpayers who did not file a 2013 federal income tax return. If you're among them, or suspect you might be, you'll have to file that return by April 18 or forfeit that money to the U.S. Treasury.

The median anticipated refund varies by state (see chart below), with estimates ranging from $619 (Idaho) to $917 (Alaska). Not as big as the average $2,878 refund for the current tax season, but enough to help you make headway on your financial goals.

"Students and many others may not realize they're due a tax refund," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in the announcement.

IRS regulations don't require a federal tax return for people whose income is less than a set level, depending on filing status, age and the type of income received. But those taxpayers may still benefit from filing, to get back any federal income tax withheld from a paycheck or claim any refundable tax credits.

Students and many others may not realize they're due a tax refund.
John Koskinen
IRS commissioner

(Filing isn't necessarily an easy feat if those years-old necessary tax documents aren't safely stashed in a shoebox somewhere. You can ask your employer for copies of previous W2s or use the IRS Get Transcript tool to request wage and income information from those years.)

It really is free money: There are no penalty fees for filing your return years late if the government owes you, and not the other way around.

However, the IRS did caution taxpayers that the 2013 refund could be held if the taxpayer hasn't filed returns for 2014 and 2015, either. And if you owe any other tax bills to the IRS or the state, or are behind on child support or federal student loans, the refund could be siphoned to offset those debts.

State or districtEstimated number of individualsMedian potential refundTotal potential refunds
Alabama18,100$729 $17,549,000
Alaska4,700$917 $5,665,000
Arizona24,800$650 $22,642,000
Arkansas9,900$722 $9,571,000
California97,200$696 $93,406,000
Colorado20,200$699 $19,454,000
Connecticut11,500$846 $12,691,000
Delaware4,300$776 $4,321,000
District of Columbia3,200$762 $3,341,000
Florida66,900$776 $67,758,000
Georgia34,400$671 $32,082,000
Hawaii6,500$793 $6,876,000
Idaho4,500$619 $3,919,000
Illinois40,000$834 $42,673,000
Indiana21,700$788 $22,060,000
Iowa10,200$808 $10,193,000
Kansas11,100$746 $10,700,000
Kentucky12,900$772 $12,627,000
Louisiana20,300$767 $21,209,000
Maine4,000$715 $3,645,000
Maryland22,200$770 $23,080,000
Massachusetts23,000$838 $24,950,000
Michigan33,600$763 $33,998,000
Minnesota15,600$691 $14,544,000
Mississippi10,400$702 $10,041,000
Missouri22,400$705 $20,787,000
Montana3,600$727 $3,480,000
Nebraska5,300$745 $5,084,000
Nevada12,300$753 $12,078,000
New Hampshire4,400$892 $4,930,000
New Jersey29,900$873 $33,207,000
New Mexico8,100$753 $8,162,000
New York54,700$847 $59,416,000
North Carolina29,800$656 $26,874,000
North Dakota2,900$888 $3,209,000
Ohio36,000$749 $34,547,000
Oklahoma17,700$773 $17,979,000
Oregon15,500$658 $14,188,000
Pennsylvania39,400$835 $41,078,000
Rhode Island2,900$796 $2,906,000
South Carolina12,100$674 $11,267,000
South Dakota2,700$823 $2,709,000
Tennessee19,500$743 $18,829,000
Texas104,700$829 $115,580,000
Utah7,900$667 $7,443,000
Vermont2,000$747 $1,859,000
Virginia29,000$752 $29,578,000
Washington27,600$829 $30,330,000
West Virginia5,000$855 $5,258,000
Wisconsin12,700$675 $11,619,000
Wyoming2,800$911 $3,189,000
Totals1,042,100$763 $1,054,581,000