Extended Tax Refund Delays and Expected IRS Processing Schedule For Returns With Exceptions

This article was last updated on March 18

While the IRS says that most refunds will be paid in 21 days, many tax filers find that it could take much longer. Coupled with known IRS backlogs and processing issues, the wait time to get your refund could stretch into weeks. Below is a table showing how long delays for certain tax filers, based on key filing items, could take this tax season.

“For about 25% of the returns flagged for income verification, refunds took longer than 56 days, and for about 18% of those flagged for identity verification, refunds took longer than 120 days.”

Items Delaying Tax RefundExpected Avg. Refund Delay (beyond 21 days)
Return Errors or Missing Data+2 to 4 weeks
Have a EITC or CTC Payment+3 weeks
Identity Verification (Fraud) +6 to 8 weeks
Income Validation+4 to 6 weeks
Tax Refund Offsets+2 to 4 weeks
Estimated average refund delays based on current and past tax seasons

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The most common reason for delays in current and past tax seasons is due to a legal requirement (under the PATH act) that requires the IRS to wait for around 3 weeks after it starts processing returns to issue refunds to taxpayers claiming the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit. So if processing of normal returns is delayed then returns claiming these credits could be delayed further.

Missing or incorrect information can cause additional delays as may get sent for manual processing and the IRS will need to contact you by mail to get additional information to resolve the issue and process the return. This could take several weeks based on the issue. Do not file an amended return if you notice an error after filing and instead wait to hear from the IRS.

Similarly if the income you reported does not match what the IRS has from your employers (W2 employees especially) or your 1099 income raises red flags based on the occupation/jobs you are reporting, the IRS may require additional verification and processing. Like missing or incorrect information issues if items cannot be adjusted automatically by the IRS, it will delay any refund payments you are due.

The other common delay people are seeing is due to tax offsets which cannot only delay refund processing, but actually reduce the amount of your refund. Tax Refund offsets include items like unpaid child support, federal agency debt outstanding student loans or back state income tax.” You will however be notified if an offset is being applied to your refund or results in you having taxes due.

Missing stimulus check claims via a recovery rebate credit should not delay your return according to the IRS, but trying to claim an incorrect amount for you or your dependents could cause a delay in processing your return as IRS will have to adjust the refund payment (with an official notice sent) to reflect the correct amount.

The refund delay durations noted in the table above are all estimates based on anecdotal evidence and reader feedback. It should not be construed as official IRS data. I will keep updating the table as new information or noted delay data comes to hand and you can subscribe via the options below for the latest updates.

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9 thoughts on “Extended Tax Refund Delays and Expected IRS Processing Schedule For Returns With Exceptions

  1. Acceptance Date: 02-15-2021 It still says processing. Its over the 21 days. You cant get through the phone number, I even started before they opened. Very first time after 7 am it said too many people have called and hung up on me. I’m now on hold to make an appointment at my local office. I haven’t gotten any mail from the IRS. If everyone is being delayed, I wish they would say so on the site instead of telling us to contact them after 21 days.

    1. Hi Cindi,

      The IRS doesn’t want you to call if you have an issue with your payment and points out repeatedly on its FAQ pages that phone staff doesn’t have additional information beyond what’s available to you in the IRS tracking tool.

    2. Mine is still processing also its been like that since Feb.8,2021 and I have topic 152 still processing today is April.7,2021and no refund yet.

  2. I use to always get my refund in a short amount of time and my stimulus checks as well. Last year I still have not gotten my income tax return and no stimulus. I did the stimulus refund on this years taxes. Last year I filed my taxes early electronically. After a few months I received a letter telling me that one of my dependents had passed away that I claimed. I only claimed my wife and myself and yes my wife passed on March 25, a year ago yesterday. She actually passed a month and half after I filed. So I sent a letter back stating who passed, sent along a copy of the death certificate. I’ve never gotten paid.

    This year I filed as soon in February as you were allowed electronically and have not gotten anything at all. No tax refund and no stimulus. Can you please tell me anything.

  3. Why we can’t through I.R.S i need to know what going with my taxes and stimulus

    1. Because you are one of maybe a million people that are trying to call. You can find massive amounts of information online that will tell you what is going on with your tax refund and your stimulus check.

      1. Never takes more than 2 weeks to get a refund, but this year I filed on Feb. 10th, still waiting… Called an got a hold of someone… they told me that it’s delayed because of the stimulus. I think all of the info in these articles is garbage. I think even perfect returns are being delayed a month or more at this point. I always file my own taxes and have never had an issue.

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