When to Worry if Your Tax Refund is Delayed

While many tax filers experienced significant delays in receiving their 2020 tax refund due to pandemic-related issues, the IRS has assured the American public that things should be back to normal for 2021 returns. That begs the question, what is normal, and when should I worry if my tax refund is delayed?

If you file your taxes electronically and request a direct deposit, you should receive your federal tax refund within 21 days of filing.

In this article, we look at why your tax refund might be delayed past the standard 21 days and what to do if you haven’t received your tax refund after the standard waiting period.

How Long Does It Take to Receive a Tax Refund?

The quickest way to receive your tax refund is by filing electronically and requesting a direct deposit. You should receive your refund within 21 business days if you use this method.

If you file your taxes electronically but request the refund in the form of a mailed check, you can expect your refund within four weeks of filing. This is to allow time for the check to be delivered via the postal service.

The process can take significantly longer if you are mailing a paper tax return. The IRS states that it can take up to 6 weeks to receive your tax refund when submitting by mail.

How Do I Check on the Status of My Return?

If you are antsy about receiving your tax refund, the IRS has a digital tool that allows you to check the status of your refund. In order to use the check my refund status tool, you’ll need:

  • Your Social Security number or ITIN
  • Your filing status
  • Your exact refund amount

The status of your 2021 return should appear within 24 hours of submission if you are filing electronically.

Should I Call the IRS If My Return is Delayed?

If you haven’t received a refund or communication from the IRS within the typical time for the method of filing and chosen form a refund, then you contact the IRS.

Why is My Tax Return Delayed?

The Number 1 reason that a tax return gets delayed is due to an error when completing filing your taxes. If the automatic review system that the IRS uses flags a mistake, then it has to be double-checked by an IRS employee, which in turn causes severe delays in getting your refund.

Therefore, it is absolutely essential to use an e-filing system that double-checks your entries for errors before submitting your return.

Common Errors Delaying Your Tax Return

There are a few common errors to look out for when filing your taxes to prevent a delay in processing your tax refund:

  • Math Errors – Mistakes in calculating totals
  • Typos or Miswritten Numbers – This is especially common when filling out direct deposit information.
  • More than one filing status – You can only claim one filing status in a given tax year
  • Incorrect line entries – Putting a number on the wrong line

If you make a small error, the IRS will send you a notice of the correction and make it for you. However, if the IRS needs more information in order to fix the error, they will request that you refile. Either way, even a small error can cause serious delays in receiving your tax refund.

Tax Refund Delay Due to the IRS Taking Your Refund

In rare cases, the IRS does have the ability to seize your refund if you have unpaid taxes from the current or a previous tax year. If this occurs, you will receive an IRS notice CP49, Overpayment Applied to Taxes Owed.

In addition, the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) allows the IRS to take your refund if you owe money on certain other kinds of debt, including:

  • Over-due child support
  • Other federal agency payments
  • State taxes
  • Unemployment compensation repayments

It’s important to note that the IRS cannot handle disputes regarding TOP payments. You will need to contact the TOP directly in order to resolve any discrepancies.

Tax Refund Delay Due to the IRS Holding Your Refund

The IRS also has the ability to hold your refund in certain situations. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are being audited; it just means that the IRS needs additional information.

The situations in which the IRS may hold your tax refund include:

  • Math error that requires additional information
  • Suspicion of identity theft
  • A challenge to claimed tax credit(s)
  • Potential Affordable Care Act health insurance issues
  • The need to file an old return
  • An existing audit from a previous year

In all of these situations, the IRS will notify you of the hold and what you need to do in order to get the hold released.

How Do I Avoid Tax Refund Delays?

The best way to avoid a tax refund delay is to file electronically using a filing service. At e.file-tax.net, we provide an e-filing service to help you file your taxes quickly and correctly. Additionally, if you sign-up for our FileSmart membership, we can help provide support if your refund does get held or taken by the IRS.

Get peace of mind that your taxes are filed accurately and a team behind you to assist if the IRS does reach out for additional information.

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