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Publication 556

Claims for Refund(p13)

If you believe you have overpaid your tax, you have a limited amount of time in which to file a claim for a credit or refund. You can claim a credit or refund by filing Form 1040X. See Time for Filing a Claim for Refund, later.
File your claim by mailing it to the IRS Service Center where you filed your original return. File a separate form for each year or period involved. Include an explanation of each item of income, deduction, or credit on which you are basing your claim.
Corporations should file Form 1120X, Amended U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, or other form appropriate to the type of credit or refund claimed.
See Publication 3920 for information on filing claims for tax forgiveness for individuals affected by terrorist attacks.

Requesting a copy of your tax return.(p13)

You can obtain a copy of the actual return and all attachments you filed with the IRS for an earlier year. This includes a copy of the Form W-2 or Form 1099 filed with your return. Use Form 4506 to make your request. You will be charged a fee, which you must pay when you submit Form 4506.

Requesting a copy of your tax account information.(p13)

Use Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, to request free copies of your tax return transcript, tax account transcript, record of account, verification of nonfiling, or Form W-2, Form 1099 series, Form 1098 series, or Form 5498 series transcript. The tax return transcript contains most of the line items of a tax return. A tax account transcript contains information on the financial status of the account, such as payments, penalty assessments, and adjustments. A record of account is a combination of line item information and later adjustments to the account. Form W-2, Form 1099 series, Form 1098 series, or Form 5498 series transcript contains data from these information returns.

Penalty for erroneous claim for refund. (p13)

If you claim an excessive amount of tax refund or credit relating to income tax (other than a claim relating to the earned income credit), you may be liable for a penalty of 20% of the amount that is determined to be excessive. An excessive amount is the amount of the claim for refund or credit that is more than the amount of claim allowable for the tax year. The penalty may be waived if you can show that you had a reasonable basis for making the claim.

Time for Filing a Claim for Refund(p13)

Generally, you must file a claim for a credit or refund within 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. If you do not file a claim within this period, you may no longer be entitled to a credit or a refund.
If the due date to file a return or a claim for a credit or refund is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, it is filed on time if it is filed on the next business day. Returns you filed before the due date are considered filed on the due date. This is true even when the due date is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.

Disaster area claims for refund.(p13)

If you live in a Presidentially declared disaster area or are affected by terroristic or military action, the deadline to file a claim for a refund may be postponed. This section discusses the special rules that apply to Presidentially declared disaster area refunds.
A Presidentially declared disaster is a disaster that occurred in an area declared by the President to be eligible for federal assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
Postponed refund deadlines.(p14)
The IRS may postpone for up to 1 year the deadlines for filing a claim for refund. The postponement can be used by taxpayers who are affected by a Presidentially declared disaster. The IRS may also postpone deadlines for filing income and employment tax returns, paying income and employment taxes, and making contributions to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. For more information, see Publication 547.
If any deadline is postponed, the IRS will publicize the postponement in your area and publish a news release, revenue ruling, revenue procedure, notice, announcement, or other guidance in the Internal Revenue Bulletin.
A list of the areas eligible for assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act is available at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website at and at the IRS website at

Nonfilers can get refund of overpayments paid within 3-year period.(p14)

The Tax Court can consider taxes paid during the 3-year period preceding the date of a notice of deficiency for determining any refund due to a nonfiler. This means that if you do not file your return, and you receive a notice of deficiency in the third year after the due date (with extensions) of your return and file suit with the Tax Court to contest the notice of deficiency, you may be able to receive a refund of excessive amounts paid within the 3-year period preceding the date of the notice of deficiency.
The IRS may postpone for up to 1 year certain tax deadlines, including the time for filing claims for refund, for taxpayers who are affected by a terrorist attack occurring after September 10, 2001. For more information, see Publication 3920.

Claim for refund by estates electing the installment method of payment.(p14)

In certain cases where an estate has elected to make tax payments through the installment method, the executor can file a suit for refund with a U.S. District Court or the U.S. Court of Federal Claims before all the installment payments have been made. However, all the following must be true before a suit can be filed:
If in its final decision on the suit for refund the court redetermines the estate's tax liability, the IRS must refund any part of the estate tax amount that is disallowed. This includes any part of the disallowed amount previously collected by the IRS.

Protective claim for refund.(p14)

If your right to a refund is contingent on future events and may not be determinable until after the time period for filing a claim for refund expires, you can file a protective claim for refund. A protective claim can be either a formal claim or an amended return for credit or refund. Protective claims are often based on current litigation or expected changes in the tax law, other legislation, or regulations. A protective claim preserves your right to claim a refund when the contingency is resolved. A protective claim does not have to state a particular dollar amount or demand an immediate refund. However, to be valid, a protective claim must:
Generally, the IRS will delay action on the protective claim until the contingency is resolved. Once the contingency is resolved, the IRS may obtain additional information necessary to process the claim and then either allow or disallow the claim.
Mail your protective claim for refund to the address listed in the instructions for Form 1040X, under Where To File.


The limits on your claim for refund can be affected by the type of item that forms the basis of your claim.

Special refunds.(p14)

If you file a claim for refund based on one of the items listed below, the limits discussed earlier under Time for Filing a Claim for Refund may not apply. These special items are:
The limits discussed earlier also may not apply if you have signed an agreement to extend the period of assessment of tax.
For information on special rules on filing claims for an individual affected by a terrorist attack, see Publication 3920.

Periods of financial disability.(p15)

If you are an individual (not a corporation or other taxpaying entity), the period of limitations on credits and refunds can be suspended during periods when you cannot manage your financial affairs because of physical or mental impairment that is medically determinable and either:
The period for filing a claim for refund will not be suspended for any time that someone else, such as your spouse or guardian, was authorized to act for you in financial matters.
To claim financial disability, you generally must submit the following statements with your claim for credit or refund:
  1. A written statement signed by a physician, qualified to make the determination, that sets forth:
    1. The name and a description of your physical or mental impairment,
    2. The physician's medical opinion that your physical or mental impairment prevented you from managing your financial affairs,
    3. The physician's medical opinion that your physical or mental impairment was or can be expected to result in death, or that it has lasted (or can be expected to last) for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, and
    4. To the best of the physician's knowledge, the specific time period during which you were prevented by such physical or mental impairment from managing your financial affairs, and
  2. A written statement by the person signing the claim for credit or refund that no person, including your spouse, was authorized to act on your behalf in financial matters during the period described in paragraph (1)(d) of the physician's statement. Alternatively, if a person was authorized to act on your behalf in financial matters during any part of the period described in that paragraph, the beginning and ending dates of the period of time the person was so authorized.
The period of limitations will not be suspended on any claim for refund that (without regard to this provision) was barred as of July 22, 1998.

Limit on Amount of Refund(p15)

If you file your claim within 3 years after filing your return, the credit or refund cannot be more than the part of the tax paid within the 3 years (plus the length of any extension of time granted for filing your return) before you filed the claim.
Example 1.(p15)
You made estimated tax payments of $1,000 and got an automatic extension of time from April 15, 2003, to August 15, 2003, to file your 2002 income tax return. When you filed your return on that date, you paid an additional $200 tax. Three years later, on August 15, 2006, you file an amended return and claim a refund of $700. Because you filed within 3 years after filing your return, you could get a refund of any tax paid after April 15, 2003.
Example 2.(p15)
The situation is the same as in Example 1, except that you filed your return on October 31, 2003, 21/2 months after the extension period ended. You paid an additional $200 on that date. Three years later, on October 27, 2006, you file an amended return and claim a refund of $700. Although you filed your claim within 3 years from the date you filed your original return, the refund is limited to $200. The estimated tax of $1,000 was paid before the 3 years plus the 4-month extension period.

Claim filed after the 3-year period.(p15)

If you file a claim after the 3-year period, but within 2 years from the time you paid the tax, the credit or refund cannot be more than the tax you paid within the 2 years immediately before you filed the claim.
You filed your 2002 tax return on April 15, 2003. You paid $500 in tax. On November 2, 2004, after an examination of your 2002 return, you had to pay $200 in additional tax. On May 2, 2006, you file a claim for a refund of $300. Your refund will be limited to the $200 you paid during the 2 years immediately before you filed your claim.

Processing Claims for Refund(p15)

Claims are usually processed shortly after they are filed. Your claim may be denied, accepted as filed, or it may be examined. If a claim is examined, the procedures are almost the same as in the examination of a tax return.
However, if you are filing a claim for credit or refund based only on contested income tax or on estate tax or gift tax issues considered in previously examined returns and you do not want to appeal within the IRS, you should request in writing that the claim be immediately rejected. A notice of claim disallowance will then be promptly sent to you. You have 2 years from the date of mailing of the notice of disallowance to file a refund suit in a United States District Court or in the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Explanation of Any Claim for Refund Disallowance(p16)

The IRS must explain to you the specific reasons why your claim for refund is disallowed or partially disallowed. Claims for refund are disallowed based on a preliminary review or on further examination. Some of the reasons your claim may be disallowed include the following: If your claim is disallowed for these reasons, or any other reason, the IRS must send you an explanation.

Reduced Refund(p16)

Your refund may be reduced by an additional tax liability. Also, your refund may be reduced by amounts you owe for past-due child support, debts you owe to another federal agency, or past-due legally enforceable state income tax obligations. You will be notified if this happens. For those reductions, you cannot use the appeal and refund procedures discussed in this publication. However, you may be able to take action against the other agency.

Offset of past-due state income tax obligations against overpayments.(p16)

Federal tax overpayments can be used to offset past-due, legally enforceable state income tax obligations. For the offset procedure to apply, your federal income tax return must show an address in the state that requests the offset. In addition, the state must first:
Past-due, legally enforceable state income tax obligation.(p16)
This is an obligation (debt):
Offset priorities.(p16)
Overpayments are offset in the following order:
  1. Federal income tax owed.
  2. Past-due child support.
  3. Past-due, legally enforceable debt owed to a federal agency.
  4. Past-due, legally enforceable state income tax debt.
  5. Future federal income tax liability.
Note. If more than one state agency requests an offset for separate debts, the offsets apply against your overpayment in the order in which the debts accrued. In addition, state income tax includes any local income tax administered by the chief tax administration agency of a state.
Note.The Tax Court cannot decide the validity or merits of the credits or offsets (for example, collection of delinquent child support or student loan payments) made that reduce or eliminate a refund to which you were otherwise entitled.

Injured spouse exception.(p16)

When a joint return is filed and the refund is used to pay one spouse's past-due child support, spousal support, or a federal debt, the other spouse can be considered an injured spouse. An injured spouse can get a refund for his or her share of the overpayment that would otherwise be used to pay the past-due amount.
You are considered an injured spouse if:
  1. You are not legally obligated to pay the past-due amount and
  2. You meet any of the following conditions:
    1. You made and reported tax payments (such as federal income tax withheld from wages or estimated tax payments).
    2. You had earned income (such as wages, salaries, or self-employment income) and claimed the earned income credit or the additional child tax credit.
    3. You claimed a refundable credit, such as the health coverage tax credit.
Note.If your residence was in a community property state at any time during the year, you can file Form 8379 even if only item (1) above applies.
If you are an injured spouse, you can obtain your portion of the joint refund by completing Form 8379. Follow the instructions on the form.

Relief from joint and several liability on a joint return.(p17)

Generally, joint and several liability applies to all joint returns. This means that both you and your spouse (or former spouse) are liable for any tax shown on a joint return plus any understatement of tax that may become due later. This is true even if a divorce decree states that a former spouse will be responsible for any amounts due on previously filed joint returns.
In some cases, a spouse will be relieved of the tax, interest, and penalties on a joint tax return. Three types of relief are available.
Form 8857.(p17)
Each kind of relief is different and has different requirements. You must file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, to request relief. See the instructions for Form 8857 and Publication 971 for more information on these kinds of relief and who may qualify for them.