Expediting a Refund

You filed your tax return and you’re waiting for your refund. The IRS generally releases refunds within specified times. Generally, the IRS needs two weeks to process a refund on an electronically filed tax return and up to six weeks for a paper tax return.

The PATH Act made the following changes, which became effective for the 2016 filing season, to help prevent revenue loss due to identity theft and refund fraud related to fabricated wages and withholdings:

  • The IRS may not issue a credit or refund to you before February 15th, if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your tax return.
  • This change only affects returns claiming EITC or ACTC filed before February 15.
  • The IRS will hold your entire refund, including any part of your refund not associated with the EITC or ACTC.
  • Neither TAS, nor the IRS, can release any part of your refund before that date, even if you're experiencing a financial hardship.

If you are facing a hardship, like a financial hardship (can't buy medicine, can't pay mortgage or rent and received an eviction notice, can't pay utilities and got a shut off notice, etc.) and you need your refund sooner, the IRS may be able to expedite the refund. You will need to contact the IRS, and explain your hardship situation. 

The IRS may be able to expedite your refund, if it is held up by a temporary backlog in processing — you may receive a letter or notice from the IRS telling you there’s a problem with your tax return or that your refund will be delayed. In that case, if you are experiencing a financial hardship, the IRS might be able to manually process your refund to get it to you sooner.

If you owe tax to the IRS from a prior tax year, the IRS may be holding your refund to pay down that debt. But if you are facing a serious financial hardship and need your refund immediately, the IRS can consider not following its usual procedures of taking the refund. Instead, it may release and expedite part or all the refund to help with your hardship.

  • Note: The IRS can only expedite a refund held to pay an IRS debt. If the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) is offsetting your refund for debts other than federal tax debts like past due student loans, child support, state unemployment compensation, or other federally insured debt, even with a serious financial hardship the IRS cannot issue you a refund.

Request an expedited refund by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 (TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059).

  • Explain your hardship situation; and  
  • Request a manual refund expedited to you.

The IRS will likely request documentation of your financial hardship such as copies of shutoff notices, eviction or foreclosure notices, etc., as well as other supporting information like a copy of your tax return with the refund claim.  Respond promptly to the IRS’s request.

If you owe federal taxes, discuss payment options such as installment agreement or offer in compromise with the IRS.  You can find more information on the Get Help pages for these topics.

If you provide the information the IRS is asking for within the requested time, the IRS can immediately consider your request for an expedited refund.

Some things to consider if you are seeking an expedited refund:

  • An expedited refund is limited to your hardship amount verified by the IRS. The IRS may not release all your refund.
  • If the IRS issues an expedited partial refund to help with your hardship, the process will delay of your remaining refund.

“Where’s my refund?”

IRS Toll-Free: 1-800-829-1040 (TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059)

Have a different tax issue?  Browse common issues and situations at Get Help.

Is your tax problem more complex?  If your issue is causing you financial hardship, you've tried repeatedly and aren't receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights are being violated, consider contacting Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

Do you feel that you need help from a tax professional but can’t afford one? You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), or enrolled agent associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

Last modified January 11, 2018