He Who Hesitates Is Lost – Late Filing Refunds

I have heard questions about expired refunds. Let me summarize. “I faced a hardship and didn’t file tax returns for several years. Now, I learn that I cannot get my refunds for all those years. Can you help?”

Dear Friends and Family,

My answers don’t bring much hope. These are heartbreaking stories and I truly wish I had a solution.

But here’s the problem. Even the IRS doesn’t have discretionary control over this matter. These refunds that have expired, due to the statute of limitations, are controlled by laws passed by Congress – they folks you vote for. You need to get in touch with your legislators to get them to make the law more sympathetic.

The tax code doesn’t provide a way to get those refunds from closed years. When we talk about a ” statute of limitations,” the word “statute” means LAW – in this case IRC 6511.

For future reference, please don’t put off filing your tax returns – no matter how sick or depressed you are. Family and friends, please keep an eye on those you love and help file their tax returns. They don’t need to be totally accurate. If some information is frustratingly elusive – make good estimates and attached a statement to the tax return that this has been done. After all, you have three years to correct the tax return. In the meantime, you save the refund for that year – which would otherwise be lost forever.

What can you do if it IS lost? There IS one thing I would try. You have nothing to lose.

Contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service and see if there is any way they can help you. Sometimes, in extreme situations, they can pull a rabbit out of a hat. And their service is free. I truly wish you-all luck!

TaxMama® has decades of experience in many areas of taxation, with intimate knowledge of the vagaries of many, many industries. She provides free tax guidance to tax professionals and the public. A Dow Jones journalist and columnist/blogger on several corporate and Accounting websites. Provides a special series of courses to tax professionals, called the Tax Practice Series, to teach tax pros to represent clients before the IRS (and their states). Teaches the only comprehensive tax course online to those wanting to pass the IRS’ Special Enrollment Examination (aka the Enrolled Agent Exam or EA exam).

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