TAS Tax Tip: Where is my refund?

March 24, 2020

 
If you’ve already filed your tax return in the last month or so, but haven’t gotten your refund yet, you may be wondering: Where is my refund?

The IRS, in general, processes refunds in approximately 21 days, if you filed electronically, and six weeks if you filed a paper tax return. However, there are several things that could delay or stop you from receiving the refund, in full or in part. Below are some of the main reasons you may not have received your refund yet, and tools to help you find out the status of it, along with self-help information to assist you should you need it.

Reasons you may not have your refund yet

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC): If you claimed the EITC or the ACTC, and there are no errors, you should receive your refund, if you selected Direct Deposit around the first week of March. However, if there are problems with any of the information related to the claim, your refund will be held, and you will be asked to supply more information. If you receive an IRS letter or notice about your claim, reply immediately following the steps outlined and using the contact information provided.

Identity Theft: Tax-related identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit tax fraud. The IRS has specific programming to review tax returns to identify instances of possible identity theft, which can also cause a delay in issuing a refund.

  • If this is the case, you should receive IRS letter 5071c requesting you to contact the IRS Identity Verification telephone number provided in the letter or take other steps. The right ones for you are based on what’s happening with your tax account, so follow the instructions in the correspondence.

  • You can also see our Identity Theft page or for more information. See our Tax tip for keeping safe on social media at tax time too.

Errors on or Incomplete Tax Returns: Your refund may be delayed for something as simple as a forgotten signature or because there is some other type of error, including mathematical errors or if the income reported by you doesn’t match what your employer or other third-party payers have reported. If this is the case, the IRS will send correspondence either asking for more information or letting you know your tax return was adjusted and why.

Refund used to pay other debts: Sometimes you or your spouse may owe a tax debt to the IRS or a debt to other agencies, including child support or student loans. If this is the case, your refund may be offset (applied to pay that debt). You should receive an IRS notice if this occurs.

  • Follow the steps on our Refund Offset page if you have questions or disagree with the amount offset.

  • If you filed a joint tax return, you may be entitled to part or all the refund offset if your spouse is solely responsible for the debt. To request your part of the tax refund, follow the steps on our Injured Spouse page.

Lost or Stolen Refund: If one of the IRS refund tracking applications, mentioned below, indicates the IRS issued your refund, but you haven’t received it, your refund may have been lost, stolen, misplaced, or directed to a different bank account if the direct deposit numbers entered on your tax return were incorrect. So, if it appears the refund was issued, but you still haven’t received it, you can ask the IRS to do a refund trace. This is the process the IRS uses to track a lost, stolen, or misplaced refund check or to verify a financial institution received a direct deposit.

Options for tracking your refund

  • Where’s My Refund tool: You can use this to track the status of your refund. It does have some limitations.

  • IRS2Go app: If you want to use your mobile device, you can download the IRS2Go app to check your refund status.

  • The IRS’s toll-free Refund Hotline: 1-800-829-1954. The IRS recommends using one of the above applications or searching IRS.gov for information before calling.

If the above options are not giving you the information you need, start on our I don't have my refund or our Locating a Refund page for step-by-step actions you can take.

Myths about refunds 

  • Ordering a Tax Transcript: Ordering a tax transcript will not help you find out when you’ll get your refund, nor will it expedite the refund process.

  • Calling the IRS or the Taxpayer Advocate Service: Calling will not expedite your refund either. Phone and walk-in representatives can only research the status of your refund after the time frames for regular processing, mentioned above, have passed. You should call, however, if you received correspondence from the IRS or if one of the refund applications says specifically to do that.

Visit the IRS’s frequently asked questions page on refunds for more information.

IRS refund status tools and information

Taxpayer Advocate Service Resources

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