I have been a software developer for 15 years in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Loved your book and I have a question about the statute of limitations for refunds that maybe you can address in your blog.
Here is a direct quote from the tax code section 6511:
"Claim for credit or refund of an overpayment of any tax imposed by this title in respect of which tax the taxpayer is required to file a return shall be filed by the taxpayer within 3 years from the time the return was filed or 2 years from the time the tax was paid, whichever of such periods expires the later, or if no return was filed by the taxpayer, within 2 years from the time the tax was paid."
It clearly states "within 3 years from the time the return was filed". There is no use of language such as "timely filed" or "due date" etc. My interpretation of this would be as follows: I file my 2003 return on April 15th 2009. I can take a refund until April 15th 2012. After all, the IRS can assess taxes against that return until April 15th 2012! Obviously, the IRS does not see it this way, but I cannot get anyone on their side to give me a reasonable explanation as to how they arrived at their application of Section 6511. In this case the code isn't acting as code should from a developer's perspective :).
Perhaps you have some insight, like a related section that provides guidance which I may be missing?
Well, Matthew. Don't know how insightful I can be. But, I can explain it.
Correct, no matter how late you filed your tax return, you may file a claim for refund for up to three years after you have filed your tax return. But -- BIG BUT -- that doesn't mean you can get the money owed you!
Here's how it works:
*** To be considered for a refund you must file a claim for refund within three years from the date you filed your return.
*** How much of your refund that you may receive depends on whether you filed your return on time or not.
*** Amount of refund received also depends on when you paid the taxes for the year for which you are claiming the refund.
If you filed your return on time, meaning due date plus extensions, then your refund can be up to any amount as long as it was paid during the tax year plus the three years after that.
If you file your 2007 tax return on October 15, 2008 and you file a claim for refund on October 15, 2011 your refund may not be more than the taxes paid and applicable credits for 2007. The taxes for 2007 must have been paid during 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 through October 15, 2011.
If you filed your return after the due date plus extensions then your refund can be up to any amount owed you as long as the taxes were paid during the two years prior to filing the refund claim:
If you file your 2007 tax return on October 16, 2008 -- a day after the deadline -- and you file a claim for refund on October 15, 2011 -- same day as my previous example -- your refund may not be more than the taxes you paid for 2007. But, [this is the BIG BUT] only those taxes paid from October 17, 2009 through October 16, 2011 are eligible for refund..
If you want to read how the IRS explains this, see IRS Publication 556 pages 13 through 15 and IRS Code Section 6511 -1B(2)a.
Since most people pay taxes for a particular year in that year or a little into the next it pretty much means: forget about filing for a refund if you didn't file your tax return on time.
The exception: You receive a notice from the IRS a year or so after filing. You pay additional tax then find out you didn't really owe that tax and you file a claim to get the additional tax refunded.