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$1 billion in unclaimed tax returns are about to expire: Here’s how to get your money

WASHINGTON (AP/NEXSTAR) — The IRS is warning taxpayers that they might be leaving more than $1 billion on the table.

The federal tax collector said that roughly 940,000 people in the U.S. have until May 17 to submit tax returns for unclaimed refunds for tax year 2020, which total more than $1 billion nationwide.

“We want taxpayers to claim these refunds,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement, “but time is running out for people who may have overlooked or forgotten about these refunds.”

The average median refund is $932 for 2020. Texas, California, Florida and New York have the largest amount of people potentially eligible for these refunds. The table below shows how many people in each state may still be entitled to a 2020 tax refund, based on IRS estimates:

State or district Estimated number of individuals Median potential refund Total potential refunds (excluding credits)
Alabama 15,200 $926 $16,839,800
Alaska 3,700 $931 $4,335,300
Arizona 25,400 $871 $26,939,600
Arkansas 8,700 $923 $9,392,600
California 88,200 $835 $94,226,300
Colorado 18,500 $894 $20,109,900
Connecticut 9,800 $978 $11,343,600
Delaware 3,600 $945 $4,156,500
District of Columbia 2,900 $968 $3,503,800
Florida 53,200 $891 $58,210,500
Georgia 36,400 $900 $39,175,600
Hawaii 5,200 $979 $5,972,600
Idaho 4,500 $761 $4,369,600
Illinois 36,200 $956 $40,608,000
Indiana 19,200 $922 $20,893,000
Iowa 9,600 $953 $10,601,700
Kansas 8,700 $900 $9,285,600
Kentucky 10,600 $920 $11,236,300
Louisiana 15,100 $957 $17,357,300
Maine 3,800 $923 $4,030,200
Maryland 22,200 $991 $26,365,400
Massachusetts 21,800 $975 $25,071,800
Michigan 34,900 $976 $38,274,800
Minnesota 13,500 $818 $14,043,900
Mississippi 8,100 $861 $8,685,000
Missouri 19,500 $893 $20,803,400
Montana 3,400 $851 $3,632,100
Nebraska 4,700 $901 $5,007,300
Nevada 10,200 $890 $11,143,900
New Hampshire 4,200 $982 $4,923,100
New Jersey 24,400 $920 $27,408,300
New Mexico 6,500 $868 $7,032,700
New York 51,400 $1,029 $60,837,400
North Carolina 27,500 $895 $29,304,100
North Dakota 2,200 $953 $2,482,600
Ohio 31,400 $909 $32,939,900
Oklahoma 14,300 $902 $15,566,900
Oregon 15,300 $847 $15,857,800
Pennsylvania 38,600 $1,031 $43,412,900
Rhode Island 2,600 $986 $2,980,500
South Carolina 11,900 $840 $12,564,900
South Dakota 2,200 $892 $2,346,300
Tennessee 16,800 $909 $18,007,000
Texas 93,400 $960 $107,130,200
Utah 7,800 $836 $8,191,700
Vermont 1,700 $911 $1,818,600
Virginia 25,900 $914 $28,944,600
Washington 26,200 $976 $31,110,300
West Virginia 3,800 $950 $4,130,400
Wisconsin 11,800 $837 $12,139,400
Wyoming 2,100 $961 $2,416,300
Totals 938,800 $932 $1,037,161,300
Source: IRS

How to claim your refund

For people who need to file a return, the IRS advises taxpayers to request their W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 from their employer or bank — or order a free wage and income transcript using the “Get Transcript Online” tool at IRS.gov.

You can find current and prior year tax forms and filing instructions at www.irs.gov/forms-instructions or by calling 1-800-829-3676.

Taxpayers typically have three years to file and claim tax refunds, otherwise the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

Generally the deadline to claim old refunds falls around the April 15 tax deadline, but this year the three-year window for 2020 unfiled returns was postponed to May 17, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But if taxpayers haven’t filed a return for tax year 2021 and 2022, any 2020 refunds would be withheld until they file for those years as well to make sure they don’t owe.

“People faced extremely unusual situations during the pandemic, which may have led some people to forget about a potential refund on their 2020 tax returns,” Werfel said. “Some people may not realize they may be owed a refund. We encourage people to review their files and start gathering records now, so they don’t run the risk of missing the May deadline.”

Tax season officially began on January 29. According to the latest tax season statistics, more than 71.5 million individual tax filings have been submitted to the IRS this season.

Nexstar’s Ashleigh Jackson contributed to this report.

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