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Checking on Your Refund

If you are curious about where your refund is, the IRS offers ways to ease taxpayers’ minds.

Online, taxpayers can go to the IRS.gov site and find a section titled “Where’s My Refund?” Here, taxpayers can find out when their check was mailed, or when their refund was deposited into their requested account. Be sure to have your social security number, filing status, and refund amount available. You will be asked for this information once in this section.

If you are not interested in visiting the IRS.gov site, call them at 1-800-429-1040 to speak with a live representative. Or, the IRS has an automated refund information phone number of 1-800-429-4477 to call.

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Claiming a Prior Year Refund

Did you file a tax return and never get last year's refund? In most instances, the refund wasn't paid because the taxpayer moved, their bank account was closed or incorrectly entered on their tax return for a deposit or sometimes, the taxpayer's telephone number was disconnected or incorrect.

So how can you get your hands on the refund from last year? The IRS directs people who never received their refunds to the Where's My Refund section on their site or to call 1-800-829-1954.

Note that there is a three-year deadline to obtain the refund.

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Reasons For Refund Claim

A claim for a refund for an overpayment must be filed within three years from the original deadline of the tax return. Typically, a refund claim is filed on a 1040X form to correct original tax forms. Someone might claim a refund because they need to change their filing status, report additional deductions, change your personal exemptions, claim tax credits you didn't take previously or claim additional dependents.

The most important part of a refund claim is the stating the reasons for claiming a refund. The IRS will not accept a statement simply stating an overpayment without including any supporting documentation. If the IRS denies a claim, it may become the basis for a court suit. Therefore, if you have not stated all the grounds for your refund claim, you may not be allowed to argue them in court. In order to properly file a refund claim you need to show the following:

All the facts supporting the claim. Attach all the supporting tax forms and documents backing up your claim to the 1040X. Alternate, sometimes inconsistent, grounds can be used when you are uncertain about the exact legal grounds. “The loss occurred from bad debt, probably a poor write-off,” would be an example. Check with the IRS for more information about this area.

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Refund Claim Time Limits

There are strict time limits that must be met in order to file a refund claim.

  1. The postmark on your mailing a refund claim is the determining factor as to timeliness. If this date is no later than the due date (including extensions), it is considered timely. This applies to the U.S. Postal Service as being the method of delivery. The timely mailing rule also applies to other IRS designated private delivery services.
  2. You may file a refund claim within three years from the time your return was filed, or within two years from the time you paid your tax, whichever is later.
  3. A refund claim based on a bad debt or worthless securities within seven years from the date the bad debt or securities became worthless.
  4. When you file a joint return with a spouse who is having refunds withheld by the IRS to satisfy a debt, you have six years from the date of the IRS notice regarding the refund being withheld.
There are other time limits involving refund claims. Check with the IRS for details.

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Refund Claims

Taxpayers should file form 1040X (Amended Return) for a refund claim for a variety of reasons such as:

  1. Failing to take allowable deductions or credits;
  2. Taking advantage of a retroactive tax law; or
  3. Overstating your income.
There is no need to find 1040X for a refund claim when taxes were overpaid due to excessive withholding of taxes on your wages or salaries. You also do not need to file a refund claim is you overpaid your estimated taxes. You will receive those refunds upon filing your year-end tax return.

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Refund Claims - Other

Disabled Persons
The time limitations for a refund claim are suspended when the taxpayer is physically or mentally impaired and unable to manage his or her financial affairs. The impairment period must be expected to last at least one year. The suspension does not apply during a period in which a guardian is authorized to handle the individual’s financial affairs.

Joint Refund Claims
If a joint return was filed for a year in which a refund is due, both spouses are entitled to recover jointly. If married filing separately, each spouse is a separate taxpayer and may not file a claim to recover a refund based on the other spouse’s return. That is, except if that spouse becomes the fiduciary when one spouse becomes incompetent or dies. To claim a refund on behalf of a deceased spouse, taxpayers should complete Form 1310. If you are divorced and incur a net operating loss or credit that may be carried back to a year in which you were married, you may file a refund claim with your signature alone and the refund check will be made out only to you.

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Refund Options

Taxpayers have a couple of choices in the event of a tax refund. You can have the IRS mail you the refund check through the US mail or, you can have the IRS directly deposit your refund into any of your following accounts: bank, brokerage, or mutual fund.

For a direct deposit, you need to provide the IRS with your account routing number as required by the IRS instructions. You can choose to have all or part of your refund applied to your estimated tax. However, once you make this decision it's final.

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Refunds Used to Pay Debts

The Treasury Department Financial Management Service may withhold all or part of your tax refund to pay off a past due federal debt obligation such as child support, student loan, or state income tax.

If you file jointly and your spouse owes child support or a federal debt, you may be able to get your share of the refund due on your joint return.

File Form 8379 to get back your share of the refund. This applies if your tax payments or refundable credits are more than your reported joint income.

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