Unclear on the Concept

Today TaxMama hears from Cliff in the TaxQuips Forum, who dropped the ball. “Filing your income tax return is due April 15th, or with an extension, 10/15. However, the instructions also say that you have three years (plus any extension) to file a claim for any refund due. Which rule takes precedence?  The IRS cannot or will not answer this question, which I’ve asked several times. If I file an extension and ensure that I am due a refund, why then does the IRS come after me and force me to file (via Notice of Deficiency letter) before the three year period is up?”

Dear Clifford,

Note: the operative phrase is – “if you filed a tax return”. If you did not file a tax return, you only have three years from the due date of the return to file and claim the refund – NOT including extensions. The extensions will have expired.

True, the deadline dates can be confusing. So, for more details about the deadlines for filing claims, please see the rest of my reply in the TaxQuips Forum.

Why does IRS want you to file before the three year period is up? To protect YOUR interests. If you don’t file a tax return within three years of the original due date (NOT including extensions), you will lose any refund you have coming to you.


That’s something entirely different. That letter is issued after an audit. When an audit is completed (whether you show up or not), IRS issues a 30-day letter. When you ignore the 30-day letter, the 90-day notice of deficiency is issued.

So, we’re not talking about your right to claim a refund, here. We’re talking about you ignoring notices from IRS about audits. If you don’t know you were being audited – you’ve not been reading your mail.

Get help, while there is still time – before those 90 days expire. At the very least, file a Tax Court Petition in order to protect your right to re-open the audit you simply ignored.

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about IRS notices, filing deadlines, other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

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