Claim Your 2018 Tax Refund Now – Or Lose It Forever

There are about 1.5 million unclaimed 2018 tax refunds worth roughly $1.5 billion…but you need to act fast if any of that money is yours.

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The IRS is looking for about 1.5 million people who didn't file a 2018 tax return and who might be owed a refund of taxes that were withheld or otherwise prepaid. In fact, Uncle Sam has almost $1.5 billion of potential refunds waiting to be claimed. The median potential refund is estimated to be $813. Is any of that money yours?

Claim Your Refund By April 18

Act now if you think some of that cash could belong to you. In cases where a federal tax return was not filed, the taxpayer generally has a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. That means you must file your 2018 tax return with the IRS no later than this year's tax filing deadline to collect the money. For most people, that's April 18 (April 19 for residents of Maine or Massachusetts). If you don't file a 2018 return in time, the U.S. Treasury gets the money and you're out of luck.

Missing W-2 and Other 2018 Tax Forms?

If you're missing W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 forms from 2018, try getting copies from your employer, bank or other payer. If that doesn't work, you can go on the IRS website and order a free wage and income transcript or request one by filing Form 4506-T. The transcript will show data from information returns received by the IRS. This information can be used to file your 2018 tax return.

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What If You Have a Tax Debt or Didn't File Other Returns?

The IRS could hold your 2018 refund check if you didn't file a 2019 or 2020 return, either. In addition, the IRS may also apply your 2018 refund to any federal or state taxes you owe for other years — or to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.

Eligibility for 2018 Earned Income Tax Credit

By filing a 2018 tax return, many low- and moderate-income workers may also be eligible for the earned income tax credit for that year. The credit was worth as much as $6,431 for 2018. The credit helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2018 were:

  • $49,194 ($54,884 if married filing jointly) for people with three or more qualifying children;
  • $45,802 ($51,492 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children;
  • $40,320 ($46,010 if married filing jointly) for people with one qualifying child; and
  • $15,270 ($20,950 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.
Rocky Mengle

Rocky Mengle was a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger from October 2018 to January 2023 with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, Rocky worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.