The IRS says that over $1.3 billion in 2017 tax refunds is still up for grabs—money that belongs to an estimated 1.3 million people who have yet to file their tax returns for that year. However, if you’re owed money, you’ll have to move fast—there’s only one week left to claim it, as the IRS will stop holding on to unclaimed 2017 refunds after May 17.
Claim it or lose it
By law, the IRS is required to hold on to unclaimed tax refunds for three years, after which that money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. The IRS says that the average claim is worth around $865, but credits can be worth thousands of dollars, too.
Per CNBC, one of the credits up for grabs is the Earned Income Tax credit; it’s worth $6,318, and can be claimed by those with up to a maximum of $48,340 in income if you have three children (there are lower thresholds if you have fewer or no children, as listed here). Other credits can be claimed as well:
How to know if you’re owed money
According to the IRS, the only way to know if the IRS is holding your 2017 refund is to file a return for that year (don’t bother calling the IRS or using the Where’s My Refund tool to find out, as it won’t give you any tax refund information for 2017). If you’re not sure about filing but think you might be owed a refund, you might want to consult with a tax professional first, just to see if you qualify for any stray tax credits (some of which expired after 2017) as well.
How to file a 2017 tax return
You will need to file your 2017 taxes using the 2017 tax form, either online or through the mail (make sure it’s postmarked by May 17)—that year’s 1040s, 1040-As and 1040-EZs can be found on IRS.gov. If you use commercial tax software like TurboTax or H&R Block, you will have either the option to use the original 2017 form in their current software, or to download the version of the tax software for the previous three years (2019, 2018, and 2017).
And if you’re missing W-2, 1098, 1099, or 5498 forms from 2017, you can request them from former employers and banks, or from the the IRS Get Transcript Online tool.
Also, note that even if you qualify for a refund, that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get a check—those funds could be applied to other debts that you might owe, like child support or other back taxes.