Lost or Stolen Refund

You can always check the status of your refund using "Where's My Refund?" at IRS.gov or the IRS2Go mobile app. "Where's My Refund?" is updated no more than once every 24 hours, usually overnight.

If one of these apps indicates the IRS issued your refund, but you haven’t received it, your refund may have been stolen, lost, or misplaced.

If this is the case, you can ask the IRS to do a refund trace. This is the process the IRS uses to track a stolen, lost, or misplaced check or verify that a financial institution received a direct deposit. 

Before you ask the IRS to trace the refund, you should check to make sure that there aren't any errors on your return, and that the full processing time for a refund has passed. 

Before you ask for a trace

If you asked for a direct deposit refund, double-check the account information provided to the IRS to be sure there were no mistakes on the return — the IRS assumes no responsibility for errors by you or your preparer. You should also check with your financial institution, to make sure the mistake hasn't been at their end.

The PATH Act, Section 201 made the following changes to help prevent revenue loss due to identity theft and refund fraud related to fabricated wages and withholdings:

  • No credit or refund of an overpayment for a taxable year shall be made to a taxpayer before the 15th day of the second month following the close of such taxable year, if the taxpayer claims the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on the return. (starting Jan. 1, 2017)
  • This change only affects returns claiming EITC or ACTC that are filed before Feb. 15.
  • The IRS will hold the entire refund, including any part of the refund that is not associated with the EITC or ACTC.
  • Neither TAS, nor the IRS, can release any part of the refund before that date, even if you are experiencing a financial hardship based on the law.

When can I ask the IRS to trace my refund?

Direct deposit: The IRS generally direct-deposits refunds within 21 days after receiving your return. If you don’t receive your deposit within 5 days after the 21 days have passed, you can request a trace.

Paper check: If you don’t receive your check within six weeks of mailing your return, you can request a trace.

If you signed up for a Refund Anticipation Loan or Refund Anticipation Check, you should contact the financial institution that issued the loan or check.

Once you've determined that your refund is really missing, you can ask the IRS to trace the refund.

If your filing status is single, married filing separate, or head of household:

  • Call the IRS Refund Hotline toll-free at 1-800-829-1954 and use the automated system or speak with an employee
  • Go to “"Where's My Refund?" at IRS.gov or the IRS2Go mobile app and follow the prompts to begin a trace once you indicate you haven’t received your refund

If your filing status is married filing jointly, you need to complete IRS Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund, and mail it to the IRS service center where you would normally file a paper return.

Direct Deposit Refunds

If your refund was a direct deposit, the financial institution will get a letter within six weeks from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service in the Treasury Department, to verify where the deposit went. 

Paper Check Refunds

If the check hasn’t been cashed, you’ll get a replacement in about six weeks.

If your original refund check was cashed, you’ll receive a claim package within 6 weeks to complete and return to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service to pursue your claim.

If the Bureau of the Fiscal Service determines the check was forged, it will issue a replacement check and notify the IRS.

Denied Claims

If your claim is denied, the Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a denial letter with instructions on how to appeal the decision.

“Where’s My Refund”

IRS2Go App

Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund

Bureau of the Fiscal Service Check Claims Branch - to check on claim status: 1-800-826-9434 (only English-speaking assistance available)

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 have tried repeatedly and are not receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights are being violated, consider contacting 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 September 27, 2016