Do You Still Need to File Your 2011 Tax Return?

Larry Villano, Publisher of

If you haven't filed your 2011 federal income tax return yet and think you will be due a refund, you have between now and Aprll 15, 2015 to file to get your refund. If you wait until after the April 15, 2015 deadline you're out of luck and Uncle Sam gets to keep your money.

Three important things to keep in mind:

  1. No Penalty: There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund.
  2. Subsequent Returns Must Be Up To Date: You must be up to date with your tax filing for the years following the year you're requesting the refund. In other words, to claim a refund for 2011, you must have filed your 2012 and 2013 returns.
    • Note that If you haven't filed a 2013 return yet but filed a timely extension, be sure to get your 20 13 return filed on or before October 15, 2014.
  3. Tax Documents: Be sure to have your W-2 form and any other tax documents needed to file an accurate return.

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The General Rule

For any tax year, you have until the later of three years from due date of the return or two years from the date the tax was actually paid to claim a refund. Since the due date for filing a 2011 return was April 15, 2012, adding three years to that deadline means the window closes April 15, 2015.

Some people, such as students and part-time workers, may not have filed because they felt that they had too little income to require filing a tax return. But this could be a big mistake. You may be due a refund if you had taxes withheld from your wages or if you made quarterly estimated tax payments. A refund could also apply if you qualify for certain tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The EITC is available to families as well as single individuals without children whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The 2010 tax year thresholds were:

For Tax Year 2011, earned Income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

  • $43,998 ($49,078 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
  • $40,964 ($46,044 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
  • $36,052 ($41,132 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
  • $13,660 ($18,740 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

Tax Year 2011 maximum credit:

  • $5,751 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,112 with two qualifying children
  • $3,094 with one qualifying child
  • $464 with no qualifying children

Investment income must be $3,150 or less for the year.

The Tax Relief and Job Creation Act signed into law December of 2010 provides a temporary increase in EITC and expands the credit for workers with three or more qualifying children. These changes are temporary and apply to 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 tax years.

Keep in mind, if you owe tax for tax years prior to 2011, the U.S. Treasury will apply the refund to any taxes you owe. It also may use your refund to offset unpaid child support or any past due federal debts, such as student loans.

The three-year window also usually applies to a refund from an amended return. In general, you must file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, within three years from the date you filed your original tax return.

You can also file Form 1040X within two years from the date you paid the tax, if that date is later than the three-year rule. That means the deadline for most people to amend their 2011 tax return and claim a refund will expire on April 15, 2015.

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