The clock is ticking

Businessman look his watch, isolated on a grey background
Maurice Volmeyer / Shutterstock

If you’re one of the 1 million-plus people who haven’t filed their taxes for 2017, you could be missing out on a median amount of $865.

Generally, you have three years to claim your refund from the tax agency. Once that time is up, any unclaimed funds go to the U.S. Treasury.

“Time is quickly running out for these taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “We want to help people get these refunds, but they will need to quickly file a 2017 tax return.”

Keep in mind that you can sometimes file your back taxes electronically, but don’t delay as some tardy returns must be submitted by mail.

To get your money, you’ll have to ensure your completed 2017 tax return is postmarked for the May 17 deadline. But if you haven’t filed for 2018 or 2019, your refund may be held until you submit those returns as well.

And if you owe the IRS or your state tax agency any money, your refund could be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts like student loans.

More reasons to file your 2017 taxes now

Pile of tax forms with green calculator beside it
RomanR / Shutterstock

Taxpayers in certain areas of the country could expect to receive even larger refunds. The median refunds in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Alaska are $978, $968, and $960, respectively, based on IRS data.

But it’s not just your refund on the line here. The IRS says many low- and moderate-income workers may have also missed out on claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. This refundable tax credit can’t be applied to your refund until you file your taxes for that year.

The tax credit, which aims to provide individuals and households below certain income thresholds with help, was worth up to $6,318 in 2017.

Depending on how many qualifying children you have, if you made less than $39,617 to $48,340 (or 45,207 to $53,930 for couples filing jointly) in 2017, you’ll qualify for the credit.

Without any children, your income must be less than $15,010 (or $20,600 for joint filers).

Don’t let all these unclaimed funds go back into the government’s coffers. This money is not only rightfully yours, but it can do you much more good through a high-yield savings account or by by investing it — even if you can only spare a few dollars.

What to do if you need money now

Young couple comforting each other in kitchen while looking at bills
WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock

If your refund gets claimed by federal or state tax agencies, or you can’t wait for the money to come through, you have options to find some extra cash in your budget.

  • Shrink your insurance bills. Not all car insurance quotes are created equally. You may be overpaying for your auto insurance by up to $1,100 a year. You could save yourself hundreds of dollars a month just by shopping around for a better deal. And while you’re at it, why not save a few hundred more by comparing rates to find a lower price on homeowners insurance?

  • Stop the cycle of paying interest on multiple balances. If you’ve been leaning hard on your credit cards to get through the pandemic, you may be paying interest on top of interest by now. Rein in your debt — and pay it off sooner — by rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

  • Invest what you can spare. Investing isn’t just for the wealthy. Download an app that can help you get returns on your spare change. into a real money-making investment portfolio.

About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg


Sigrid is a reporter with MoneyWise. Before joining the team, she worked for a B2B publication in the hardware and home improvement industry and ran an internal employee magazine for the federal government. As a graduate of the Carleton University Journalism program, she takes pride in telling informative, engaging and compelling stories.

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