Do income tax return checks expire?

Written by denise caldwell
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No matter how careful or meticulous you are, you may still misplace your income tax refund check. If you discover one crumpled up in the back of the desk drawer or filing cabinet, you may not know what to do. Once you find an old refund check, you can still get the money that the Uncle Sam owes you.

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Time Frame

Refund checks not cashed in 12 months are considered expired by the IRS. This means that if you are in possession an expired check, you have to take steps to get the check reissued.


If you have a refund check approaching the 12-month expiration date that has not been cashed, you usually receive a notice in the mail from the IRS alerting you to cash the check refund before it expires. If you fail to cash the check before its expiration, write void on the check and mail it back to the IRS service centre which processes your returns with a short note asking the IRS to reissue the check.

You can also call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. The customer service representative will require you to destroy the expired check and reissue you a new check. If you do not know which IRS office services your region, visit the IRS website. Once the IRS receives your returned refund check, they will send you notice 4427C as an acknowledgement of receipt.

Remember that you can request a direct deposit of your refund instead of a mailed check to avoid lost or stolen checks.


If the expired refund check was originally based upon a joint return and was issued in two names and you would like the reissued check to be in one name, then you are required to take additional steps before your check can be reissued.

If one spouse is serving overseas in the military, the IRS requires a copy of your Power of Attorney as well as a letter from the other spouse consenting to have the refund reissued in your name. If one spouse is incarcerated, the IRS requires a letter of consent from the incarcerated spouse. If the taxpayers are divorced, a copy of the divorce decree must be included along with the applicable section that references how future refunds are to be allocated. If one spouse refuses to authorise the reissuance of the check in the other spouse's name, the matter becomes a civil one, and does not involve the IRS.


You do not receive additional interest on the refund owed if the IRS was not at fault. For instance, if you lost or misplaced your refund and allowed it to expire, the reissued refund does not include any additional interest. However, if the IRS caused the delay, then you may be entitled to interest on your refund.

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