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Amending Your 2019 Return -- When is it Due?

By Julie Quaranta, CPA-Houston

As we prepare for the start of the 2023 tax season, the window to claim a refund for 2019 filings begins to close. The issue of when the three-year refund window begins is usually straightforward, but as with everything in 2020, it is a bit blurry for filings that year. Which 2020 date do we use: April 15, July 15, Oct. 15 or when the return was filed?    

Per IRC Section 6511(a), a claim for refund of tax shall be submitted by the later of three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid. Section 6511(b) goes further to impose an additional limitation by restricting the allowable refund to a lookback period, including tax paid within the three-year period plus any applicable extension period. As such, when a refund claim in being considered, you have to determine if:

  1. It is being filed within three years from the original return filing, and
  2. If tax payments were made within the three-year period, plus any extension.         

In 2020, the IRS used its authority from Section 7508A to issue Notice 2020-23, which postponed the April 15 statutory filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020. The key in determining the 2019 refund closing date pivots on the fact that the July 15 deadline is not classified as an extended deadline, but merely a postponed deadline. 

Every 2020 return fits into one of three categories:    

  1. Returns filed prior to April 15, 2020. This group is considered filed on April 15, 2020, and has a refund claim closing date of April 17, 2023 (April 15 is on a Saturday this year).
  2. Returns filed between April 16, 2020, and July 15, 2020. Section 6511(a) will begin on the date that the initial return was filed. Section 6511(b) lookback only considers extensions when counting back, so even if a claim is timely filed by July 17, 2023 (July 15 is on a Saturday this year), the lookback period will not reach taxes paid prior to and/or on April 15, 2020. Therefore, if a taxpayer’s 2019 return was not extended, all claims need to be filed by April 17, 2023.     
  3. Returns filed between April 16, 2020, and Oct. 15, 2020 (with a valid extension). Section 6511(a) will begin on the date that the initial return was filed. Since Section 6511(b) lookback includes extensions, a refund claim can be filed up to the corresponding filing date in 2023; e.g., initial filing Aug. 3, 2020 has a claim closing date of Aug. 3, 2023. 

Most taxpayers are aware of the three-year rule, especially since it ties to the assessment status of limitation. The lookback limitation is not as recognized and the distinction between postponed versus extended date is slight but pivotal in determining a 2019 refund claim closing date.   


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