Americans have until Tax Day to get $1 billion in unclaimed refunds

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Most Americans can’t wait for Tax Day to come and go, but for a million others, it could mean potentially losing out on thousands of dollars — forever.

The Internal Revenue Service is sitting on more than $1.1 billion of unclaimed refunds from tax year 2014 (filed in 2015), and Americans have until this year’s Tax Day (April 17) to claim them. The median for the potential refunds is $847 for 2014. Taxpayers have three years to claim a refund. After that, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury. There’s no penalty for filing a late return if you have money due to you.

See: 100 million Americans can file their taxes for free, but only 3 million people actually do it

Texas has the most taxpayers who are owed money — more than 108,000 Americans with total potential refunds of $122 million, according to the IRS. California is in second, with 93,000 taxpayers owed total potential refunds of $96 million. “Time is running out for people who haven’t filed tax returns to claim their refunds,” David Kautter, acting IRS commissioner, said in a statement.

Why are so many Americans missing money?

• Americans do not have to file tax returns if they earn under a certain threshold. In 2014, single Americans under 65 years earning $10,000 a year did not have to file, neither did single Americans older than 65 earning $11,500 a year, or married taxpayers filing jointly earning under $20,000. But just because they didn’t have to file, doesn’t mean they didn’t have taxes withheld from their pay, which means a potential return. Similarly, people who made estimated tax payments that year and had overpaid may be owed a refund.

• Americans don’t always apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the credit, worth as much as $6,143 in 2014, if their annual incomes were below $46,997 for those with three or more qualifying children ($52,427 if married filing jointly); $43,756 for people with two qualifying children ($49,186); $38,511 for those with one qualifying child ($43,941); and $14,590 for people with no qualifying children ($20,020). A tax credit reduces taxes dollar for dollar.

• Students (or their parents) neglected to claim the American Opportunity Education Credit. The AOEC is a credit for education-related expenses such as tuition, room and board, course-related books, supplies and equipment, and was a maximum of $2,500 in 2014.

• People move, and they don’t update their addresses so refund checks are sent back to the IRS and go unclaimed. Sometimes, people simply forget, said Brian Ashcraft, business operations executive at Liberty Tax.

Also see: Four moves you can still make to lower your 2017 tax bill

How can you claim your money

In order to get the refund you’re owed, you have to file a tax return for 2014, and you’ll have to file returns for 2015 and 2016, too. Any refund will be applied to money owed to the IRS or a state tax agency, or to offset federal debts (like student loans) or unpaid child support.The IRS suggests taxpayers collect pertinent tax documents, such as W-2 forms from their employers, as well as Form 1099, 1098, 5498 and individual retirement account contribution information. Taxpayers who are unsure if they’re owed money can use the IRS’s website to check their refund status or call the toll-free assistance line at 800-829-1040.