IRS Says File By July 17 for $1.5 Billion in Unclaimed Tax Refunds

Unclaimed tax refunds from 2019 are waiting for millions of people who might not know it – but only if they file the pandemic-era tax return soon. Are you one of them?

Tax refund check in envelope for unclaimed tax refunds
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Unclaimed tax refunds totaling about $1.5 billion remain unclaimed at the IRS because millions of taxpayers haven’t filed their tax returns for the 2019 tax year. (In other words, you might have money waiting for you and not even know it).

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel explained in a statement that because the 2019 tax returns were due in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, “many people may have overlooked or forgotten about these refunds.” Werfel added that the IRS recommends that taxpayers “start soon to make sure that they don’t miss out.” 

$1.5 Billion Unclaimed Tax Refunds: Are You Due One?

Normally, taxpayers have three years to file their federal tax return and to claim tax refunds due, if any. After the three years pass, the unclaimed refund money becomes U.S. Treasury Department property. While that is the normal rule, the three-year period for filing returns and claiming refunds was extended for 2019 federal tax returns because of the pandemic.

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So, for 2019 returns that would typically have been filed in April 2020, the window for unfiled returns was pushed to July 17, 2023. That means that people who still haven’t filed their 2019 returns have only about three months to do so before they lose tax refunds associated with that tax return.

Average Refund Amount of $893

How much money are we talking about? The IRS says that the average median unclaimed refund amount for 2019 is $893. That means that about half of the refunds are more than that amount and about half are less. In terms of who is probably due a refund, Commissioner Werfel said in a statement, “Students, part-time workers, and others with little income overlook filing a tax return and never realize that they may be owed a refund.”

Even though the agency has estimated the average refund, the actual amount that you may receive (if you’re due a refund and file your 2019 tax return before the July deadline) will depend on your specific tax situation. However, the IRS has created state-by-state estimates of how many people might be due refunds. That information also shows the median potential refund and the total potential refunds for each state.

  • For example, in California, close to 145,000 people have unclaimed IRS refunds at an estimated potential median amount of $856 each. That’s potentially more than $141 million in unclaimed money. 
  • Some states with relatively high estimated potential median refund amounts are Massachusetts at $966, New Hampshire at $974, and West Virginia at $959. 
  • In West Virginia, as another example, the IRS estimates that about 6,500 people are due refunds with the total potential refunds for the state being about $7 million. 

For more information about the number of people who may be due 2019 IRS refunds and the estimated amounts of money involved, visit the IRS website

Unclaimed IRS Refunds: What Should You Do? 

If you think you may have an unclaimed IRS refund, you should review and gather the records needed to file your 2019 federal income tax return by July 17, 2023. That may seem daunting because nearly three years have passed, but the IRS has ways that you can request key documents and transcripts that you may need to file.

For example, if don’t have a W-2, or other important tax forms from 2019, like a 1099 form, you can request copies from your former employer. Banks, or other payors, for certain tax forms, may be able to help as well.

If your former employers or payors can’t help you, the IRS has a Get Transcript Online tool. The agency also has a way to request a transcript of your wage and income. While, according to the IRS, their online transcript tool is a fast and relatively easy approach, the agency warns that ordering a transcript using a written request can take several weeks.

Note: Keep in mind that even if you are due a refund from 2019, the IRS might hold on to your check if you haven’t filed tax returns for 2020 and 2021. Also, if you owed the IRS or a state tax agency or have unpaid child support or other federal debts, you might not receive your refund money.

Kelley R. Taylor
Senior Tax Editor,

As the senior tax editor at, Kelley R. Taylor simplifies federal and state tax information, news, and developments to help empower readers. Kelley has over two decades of experience advising on and covering education, law, finance, and tax as a corporate attorney and business journalist.