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IRS says $1.5 billion in tax refunds remain unclaimed. Here's what to know.

The IRS is eager to track down 1.5 million Americans who are owed a combined $1.5 billion in tax refunds, and the clock is ticking — they only have until July 17 to claim their money. 

The unclaimed refunds stem from taxpayers who didn't file a federal return for tax year 2019. Taxes for that year were due to be filed in 2020 — the first year of the pandemic, when the IRS extended the tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020, because of the health emergency. 

While most Americans file annual tax returns, some people — mostly low-income households — aren't required to do so. For instance, people who earn less than the standard deduction generally don't have to file a return with the IRS. But some people may have simply missed the deadline in 2020 due to the pandemic, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement on Thursday.

"We don't want people to miss their window to receive their refund," he said. "We encourage people to check their records and act quickly before the deadline."

The standard deduction in 2019 was  $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly

How much could I get?

The average median refund for tax year 2019 was $893, according to the IRS.

But some taxpayers could get far more, especially those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the agency noted. That credit was worth as much as $6,557 in 2019.

By when do I have to file a tax return?

Taxpayers must properly address and get the tax return postmarked by July 17, 2023.

What happens to the money if I miss the deadline?

Under the law, taxpayers usually have three years to file and claim their tax refunds. If they don't file within that time, the money goes to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Because of the delayed filing date in 2020, Americans have until July 17 to file their 2019 tax return and claim any money that is owed to them, rather than the typical mid-April deadline.

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