Worried about your 2023 tax refund? Get the latest updates on processing times, 2024 filing dates, and tips to avoid delays

The IRS says that most refunds will be paid within 21 days, but many tax filers are finding out (yet again) that it could take much longer, despite filing early and getting their return accepted by the IRS.

Waiting weeks, months or even a whole tax season for IRS updates has not been uncommon for many filers, especially those whose returns are pulled for further verification. Here’s how things are going this tax season and what you can expect. I have also linked to articles that may explain and help with certain delays.

Latest IRS Tax Season Statistics – Returns Processed and Average Refund

The IRS has reported a strong start to the 2024 tax season (Jan 29th processing start date) with nearly 15 million returns processed. Over 160 million returns are expected.

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2024 Tax Refund Processing Updates

For the 2023 tax season (for 2022 returns) over 160 million returns were processed. The average refund in 2023 was around $3,145, which is around $148 lower than last year at the same time.

2023 Tax Season - Final IRS processing results

If your return does not have any identity verification issues the IRS will start processing your refund. You will generally see transaction codes 570/971 on your IRS tax transcript if there are issues with your return that could delay processing and subsequent refund payments. Be on the lookout for IRS notices with more details and respond promptly.

Estimated IRS Refund Processing Delays

Below is a table showing how long delays for certain tax filers, based on key filing items, could take this upcoming tax season beyond the standard IRS refund processing schedule.

Items Delaying Tax RefundExpected Avg. Refund Delay (beyond 21 days)
Return Errors or Missing Data (TC 570)2 to 4 weeks
Have a EITC or CTC Payment (PATH act)2 weeks (By Feb 16th)
Manual Identity Verification (Fraud) 6 to 12 weeks
Income Validation or Further reviews3 to 5 weeks
Tax Refund Offsets (TC 203/898)2 to 4 weeks
Amended ReturnsUp to 20 weeks
Estimated average refund delays based on current and past tax seasons

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 or guidance.

You can see additional data from the National Tax Payer Advocate report that provides up to date statistics around IRS processing delays.

Refund Delays continue

Despite faster processing this tax season, filers are reporting that they are still not getting clear messages or regular updates on the IRS WMR/IRS2Go refund status tool or via their tax transcript.

The IRS has processed all paper and electronic individual returns received prior to January 2023, including those for tax year 2021 or earlier if those returns had no errors or did not require further review.

As of early February, the IRS had nearly 2 million unprocessed individual returns (2022 and 2021 returns), with about 80% requiring error correction or other special handling. Over 100,000 paper filed returns are waiting to be reviewed and processed.

This work (to resolve these returns) does not typically require the IRS to correspond with taxpayers, but if it does require special handling by an IRS employee so, in these instances, it is taking the IRS more than 21 days to issue any related refund. 

If they need more information or need you to verify you sent the tax return, the IRS will send you a letter via USPS mail. The resolution of these issues could take more than 120 days depending on how quickly and accurately you respond, and how quickly we can complete the processing of your return.

The IRS had 439,000 million unprocessed Forms 1040-X (amended returns) and are processing these returns in the order received and the current timeframe can be more than 20 weeks

IRS operations update – Feb 2023

And getting a live IRS agent has been enough tougher with the Tax advocate service recently saying that it is still a major struggle for tax filers to reach a live IRS agent in a timely manner. With over 70 million calls in the latest tax season, that means a lot of unhappy callers.

This has been especially frustrating for filers who have been unable to learn when their tax return might be processed or when they can expect to receive their refund and are seeing “Return Processing Has Been Delayed Beyond The Normal Timeframe” messages like the ones below or “N/A” on their tax transcript filing status.

Tax Refund Processing Delay Messages on WMR/IRS2Go
Tax Refund Processing Delay Messages on WMR/IRS2Go (click image for YT video)

Why Was My Refund Delayed?

The most common reason for tax return processing 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.

Missing or incorrect information can also 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 processing of any refund payments you are due.

Tax Refund Debt Offsets

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.

Incorrect recovery rebate credit (RRC) or child tax credit (CTC) claims for you or your dependents could cause a delay in processing your return as the IRS will have to adjust the refund payment (with an official notice sent) to reflect the correct amount.

See more on Tax Topic 203 and Tax Code 898 related to BFS/TOP offsets.

2022 IRS Tax Season Statistics

The IRS has reported end of year statistics for the 2022 tax season which showed it delivered over 110 million refunds, with the average refund being nearly $3,330. This is over 14% more than the average refund at the same time last year.

IRS Tax season stats - 2022
2022 Tax Season Statistics

Overall it was a rough season for many tax payers with people waiting months or even years for prior year returns to get done.

2021 Tax Season Summary

The big mess, which some called the 2020-2021 pandemic tax season, has also resulted in nearly 10 million fewer federal income tax refunds being issued through the regular tax season — a 12%+ decline — compared with the same time last year.

The average refund however of $2,888 was higher than prior years thanks to higher unemployment and more government pandemic stimulus and tax credits.

The IRS did extend the 2020-2021 tax season by a month to catch-up on processing and allow tax payers to file their returns (given some of the new tax adjustments).

I would not at all be surprised if the latest season is also extended further, given ongoing IRS backlogs and ongoing staffing shortages.

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28 thoughts on “Worried about your 2023 tax refund? Get the latest updates on processing times, 2024 filing dates, and tips to avoid delays”

  1. I would love to file electronically but because I had a previous account established with the IRS and forgot the password to it and the email associated with it I can’t. So, paper filing was the only option. If anyone knows a way to fix it, please advise.

  2. So just imagine how many workers of the IRS feels the same way. System changed from desktop to laptops when COVID-19 hit. People failed to believe that during shutdown 90% of staff, where at home on shutdown as well. Trying to keep themselves and family safe. In 2020 IRS had almost 50% of staff who had 30 years or more with the federal government. Eligibility for retirement created biggest issue. COVID-19 made most retirement eligible workers hop on train and getting out investments and getting their pensions so they could have money on hand PRE-vaccination and move back to local homes.

    So what did that leave a few millennials to pick up the slack. Stimulus this, Balance this, Refund this, Verify My Identity this, Earned income credit this, Advance child tax credit that…. the list goes on and new soft ware for laptops to learn while waiting for your Employers who has not submitted W-2 documents to verify actual wage earnings was paid to your SSN, before releasing a year of mortgage payment refunds. Please don’t 4get about the millions of people who have never filed or went decades without filing a single tax return, they only wanted the free stimuli, so needed to become authenticated people again to make sure Identity Theft was not occurring.

    Tax transcripts needed for PPP loans other SBA help or House buying. Everyone in US of A was on unemployment in 2020 so $10,200 free dollars after March needed adjusting which means the entire tax return and all other lines afterwards have to be adjusted just so the taxpaying citizens could have more means of finances to work with through all of our tough time living. People sure want to do psychotherapy on telephone lines too because COVID-19 affected them so greatly.

    I could go on and on about our great loving tax paying citizens we claim in our souls to be…. but as soon as the employee number is read out disgruntled human would beat down on the newbie on the phone because you cant be touched and they are to me (paid the lowest on the GS scale). Now you have the PTSD and calling in sick everyday or could not tolerate there fellow citizens cussing them out over the phone 9 hrs a day/ 5days a week when to keep a job standards are based on quantity and quality if you want a telephone and desk seat next year. So keeping up the pace and all the old timers at home o. Retirement now zoom, skype etc… has to train the newbie on knowing tax laws, policy, code etc… forced to learn a job bible bigger than the one on your night stand from the man above or whoever rocks your heart.

    Then the shockwave, the people at who are at home sleeping in are making twice as much money weekly than your bi-weekly check. But you have to drive to work to read the letters that people will write, the same dang letter 30 times in 30 days, which ultimately means this created back log and semi trucks of mail, or the mail people refusing to deal with reading handwriting of people who decided to use a snakes back to cuss you out, for not returning a timely response to one of the other 49 letters they mailed out to the closed local office.

    Why would you mail your letters to an office where it says closed. COVID-19 hits one person, whole office has the legal right to quarantine. Taxpayers refuse to mail their response back to the return address and wont spend the extra change to make sure that IRS received the letter at the Processing service center where it might be people working. Not the Tax center with the lights off, no one is there to retrieve or open your mail or tax return. I couldn’t do what the IRS phone customer representatives tolerate on the phone. Morale is extremely low for the worker who is struggling mentally as well and they are spending entire lunch breaks looking for a new job. Its bad.

    Its no ones fault. Being nice goes a long way because if they dont hit a keystroke to help its because you broke their spirit or you was last straw and you didn’t even know they walked away from keyboard. Love and patience will be key or USAjobs.gov and apply to help. Sorry for grammatical errors but no one is happy on the listening or receiving line of the phone and yet again millennials are sensitive.

    • I agree it’s no ones fault and I feel for the workers. I sent mine via cert.mail and it got there Feb.1st and I have heard nothing and see nothing on the IRs websites. I’m not going to call because I’m reasonably sure it arrived to the IRS and it must be in a pile somewhere. I’ll call mid May if I don’t hear from them since I might get through then.

      • You did yourself in thinking old school. The only hope of having your return processed is to file electronically. Now your return is lost somewhere in between a burnt out mailman or a burnt out IRS employee who speed matches a sloth on serious meds. File electronic, never do paper returns unless they no longer accept efile. Get ready for a year delay, Taxpayer Advocate your only hope to cut a year down a little now

        • This is the first year in forever since I filed paper. Due to the EIC which gave me and extra $900.00 I had to file paper. I sent it certified so it was delivered but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s stuck in the bottom of a bin somewhere in a warehouse. I’ll just have to keep the faith that it will make it through the system with my extra 900. coming my way. I will look into the tax advocate. thankyou

    • I only want to point out that the taxes could’ve been reduced but the few that did not get to claim that 10000 dollars for being worthless had to keep paying taxes without missing a beat. The beat only started missing when it was time to refund the overplayed taxes

    • Over 10 million, 2020 tax returns (filed in 2021) are still pending manual processing by the IRS. The backlog coupled with the shortage of staff and influx of 2021 returns has created a perfect storm. Delays expected to persist this year.

    • I did my taxes feb 2 and they haven’t seen me nothing yet today make it a month the irs full shit I need my taxes money back yesterday was my daughter birthday and we was going to the beach with tht now I can’t take her all because of the IRS want to have a hold on my taxes money

      • Same here. Accepted Feb3 had the status bar it went away. 28 whole days and we need it to pay rent!!! Ridiculous when you knew you were gonna face this problem and IRS did nothing to prevent it.

  3. Been filed taxes since February 2021 it is now June 26 2021 and I havent gotten a letter in the mail yet and my returns are still saying processing when can I expect my refund. I work 6 days a week but this is a check that I deserve as a working USA citizen not a stimulus freebie.. I want MY refund ..

    • If the government can’t pay us back the money they take, why are we still paying taxes on our fuel, food, paychecks, or our overall cost of living? This is my thought, the backlog goes away when they don’t have to refund the money they steal from us in the first place.. They gain profit and give away our money to the people who refuse to work. New USA law proposal: Those seeking employment have a job working for the IRS remotely. Those with a criminal background seeking work, will receive a job with the IRS answering calls to transfer you to the humans hired working with the IRS. All others (excluding handicaps and age limits) receive no public assistance without work verification. .. problem solved.

  4. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  5. 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.

    • hello Robert
      your not alone. I filed 2019 taxes no refund YET 2020 no refund yet third stimulus NOTHING YET.

    • 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.

      • 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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