What is the IRS Statute of Limitations?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 February 2020
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Taxes owed to or by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are affected by laws just like any other form of payment, and so there is an IRS statute of limitations regarding when taxes can be collected or a refund paid. The specifics of this statute of limitations can vary depending on the situation. Tax laws are fairly complicated, so a lawyer specializing in tax codes may be able to provide more specific recommendations, especially with regard to a state code. In general, however, the IRS statute of limitations for collecting taxes is 10 years from when the taxes were filed, and the IRS can perform an audit of a filed tax return up to three years after it is filed. Anyone looking to receive a refund on taxes paid has up to three years to collect.

It is important for anyone interested in these statutes to understand that tax laws can be complicated and can change frequently. This means anyone with practical concerns regarding the IRS statute of limitations should consult a certified accountant or lawyer who specializes in tax laws for the most accurate information. In general, however, there is an IRS statute of limitations with regard to when owed taxes must be collected and when a tax refund can be claimed.


The IRS statute of limitations on taxes owed to the IRS by a citizen of the US is 10 years. There are exceptions to this, however. For example, if someone withholds taxes through fraud, this statute may not be applicable and the IRS could still pursue payment from that person beyond the 10 year point. The IRS statute of limitations for investigation of filed taxes through an audit is three years from when the tax return was filed. Much like the other statute, however, fraud or tax evasion can potentially eliminate this limitation and an audit can be performed on a return at any point in these circumstances.

There is also an IRS statute of limitations on how long a person has to claim a tax refund from taxes paid to the IRS. In general, someone has three years from when he or she filed his or her taxes to claim any refund. After this point, the claim is no longer valid and any unpaid tax return money is usually lost. It is important to note that the IRS statute of limitations for unpaid taxes and audits refers only to federal taxes. Different states can have other statutes and some states have no statute of limitations on recovering taxes owed.


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