Can I Get a Tax Refund if I Don’t Pay Taxes?

If you are owed a refund, you must file your taxes even if you do not owe anything.

Refunds are an important – and exciting – part of taxes. However, not everyone’s tax situation is straight forward when it comes to receiving a refund. Even if you don’t pay taxes or have any withheld from your paychecks, you might still be eligible for a refund. 

Who is required to file taxes? 

Your filing status and gross income are the main factors that determine if you’re required to file a tax return.

You can use this IRS tool to confirm if you need to file, or if you should file simply to receive a refund (even if you’re not required to file).

Can I get a refund if I don’t make enough income to be required to file? 

Yes. Even if you are not required to file a tax return, you may be eligible to claim certain refundable credits. “Refundable” means that you could receive a portion of those credits in the form of a tax refund. A few examples of refundable credits are the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit

Can I get a refund if I don’t pay taxes? 

It’s possible. If you do not have any federal tax withheld from your paycheck, your tax credits and deductions could still be greater than any taxes you owe. This would result in you being eligible for a refund. You must file a tax return to claim your refund.

Note: If you receive a W-2 from your employer, a certain amount of money should be withheld from your paycheck to pay your tax bill all year long. When you have taxes withheld, you are paying taxes, and you could be eligible for a refund.

If I don’t file my taxes, can I still claim my refund? 

No. You must file a tax return to claim a refund. If you are eligible for a refund but don’t file a return, the IRS will hold your funds until you submit a return for that year. There is no penalty for filing late if you are owed a refund, but you must file within 3 years of the original due date to receive it. Learn how to file a prior year return.

What is a CP88 notice? 

If the IRS is holding your refund because you didn’t pay prior year taxes, they will send you a CP88 Notice. This will explain why your refund is being held and will require a response from you about why you didn’t file. You should mail the form back or call the number on the notice to speak with an agent. 

This article was last updated on March 29, 2022.

This article is intended to provide general information to the public and does not provide personalized tax, investment, legal, or business advice. You should seek the assistance of a professional for advice on taxes, investments, and any other financial, legal, or business matter pertinent to your individual situation.

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