Personal Finance

Taxpayers are leaving $1.3 billion in tax refunds on the table. Time is running out to claim them

Key Points
  • More than 1.3 million Americans are owed a tax refund from the IRS for 2017.
  • They'll have to file a return quickly if they want the money.
  • Some of these taxpayers may also be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which could be worth as much as $6,318.
Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The IRS is still holding more than $1.3 billion in unclaimed tax refunds for those who didn't file a return in 2017, the agency announced on Monday.

The pot of money is owed to roughly 1.3 million Americans.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig warned that time is running out for these taxpayers to get their refunds.

"There's only a three-year window to claim these refunds, and the window closes on May 17," Rettig said in a statement. "We want to help people get these refunds, but they will need to quickly file a 2017 tax return."

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If a person fails to file a tax return within three years, any refund becomes property of the U.S. Treasury. The IRS announced last month that the federal income tax filing deadline would be extended to May 17, 2021 from April 15, 2021.

The IRS also cautioned that people who didn't file a return in 2018 or 2019 may still not get their 2017 refund. And the refund can be applied to particular debts a person might owe, including on a student loan.

Regardless, it's worth filing.

Are Americans addicted to tax refunds?
Are Americans addicted to tax refunds?

Half of the tax refunds for 2017 that haven't been disbursed are for more than $865. And some low- and moderate-income workers would be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which in 2017 could be worth as much as $6,318.

You can find instructions on filing a tax return for prior years on the IRS website.

If you're missing any crucial forms, like a W-2 or 1099, you can request a copy from your employer, bank or other income provider. If that fails, you can try ordering a free wage and income transcript at, which should have the information you need to file your return.