This article was last updated on April 14
As the IRS often notes, for nine out of ten tax payers it takes a maximum of 21 days to receive a tax refund (when eligible) after their tax return has been accepted. But this is still just an estimate based on past IRS refund schedules and not a guarantee. Further if it takes 21 days on average for 90% of tax payers, it also takes a lot longer than that for 10% or over 15 million tax filers to see their refund.
After your tax return has been accepted by the IRS (return received), they it will start processing it over several days until finalized and a tax refund, if eligible, is disbursed. A refund payment date will then be available on the IRS WMR site or IRS2Go app. If there are issues with your refund you may see an extended delay in moving to the next processing status and an applicable IRS message will be displayed once available. Get more details on IRS processing status’ on the WMR/IRS2Go tool or in this Refund Schedule YouTube video or this one if its been more than 21 days since your return was accepted.
Reasons Why Your Tax Return Processing and Refund Has Been Delayed?
The IRS has said that there could be dozens of reasons when it comes to delays in processing tax returns that can then affect the timing of your refund. But common causes for delays include:
- Includes errors or is incomplete, which means the IRS cannot validate or match your data to their records. Especially for key items like your or your spouse’s SSN, dependent data or missing fields needed to process your return (e.g income)
- Is affected by identity theft or fraud. You will see a message if this is the reason and receive a letter in the mail to confirm identity and next steps
- Incorrect bank account information. Given most refunds are sent electronically it’s very important to double (or triple) check that your account number and bank routing number are accurate. You don’t want a delay trying to recover a refund because it went to the wrong bank account.
- Includes a claim filed for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit. This delays return early in the tax season due to legislation that does not allow returns with these credits to be processed until February 15th.
- Includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation which cause delays for up to 14 weeks
- Needs further review in general by the IRS. Most systems have automated checks looking for common red flags and then are flagged for more system or manual processing. The could add weeks to the processing and refund payment delays
- IRS delays due to focus on or processing of other higher priority items like 2020/2021 stimulus checks. Unfortunately you cannot do anything in this situation and will just have to wait for the IRS to catch-up on processing refunds.
One thing to note is that by using electronic filing software like TurboTax or Tax Act, you can eliminate a lot of the simple errors or incomplete information related issues because it they tax software packages have checks built in before you submit the return to the IRS. This is why electronically filing your taxes is the recommended option by the IRS and tax advocates.
What To Do Next?
If it has been over 21 days since your return was being accepted by the IRS (or 6 weeks if you filed a paper return) and the tax refund status has not changed or WMR has no updated message for delays, you can call the IRS and speak with an agent concerning your tax refund. But to reiterate, don’t call before 21 days as the IRS will tell you to wait until the prescribed period. You can call the IRS on 1-800-829-1040 between 7 AM – 7 PM local time Monday-Friday.
Calling the IRS to Check on Your Refund?
Its not always easy to get through to a live agent at the IRS, but below are some options to try. Hopefully these help you get someone real to talk to about your refund. But just be warned you will need to try a few times, so have a drink or lots of patience handy!
Option 1 (seems to be working this year)
- Call IRS number 1-800-829-0582
- DO NOT selection Option #1 for English
- Wait until the automated voice finishes talking. Then enter extension 652
- You may have to wait a while due to high call volumes (and redial a few times), but you will get a live agent.
- Call the IRS on 1-800-829-1040
- So after first choosing your language, then do NOT choose Option 1 (refund info) or Option 7 (economic impact payment/stimulus check).
- Choose option 2 for “personal income tax” instead.
- Then press 1 for “form, tax history, or payment”.
- Then press 3 “for all other questions.”
- Then press 2 “for all other questions.”
- When it asks you to enter your SSN or EIN to access your account information, don’t enter anything.
- After it asks twice, you will get another menu.
- Then press 2 for personal or individual tax questions.
- It should then transfer you to an agent. Retry if you get the high call volume message.
Option 3: Call the IRS Refund Hotline – 1-800-829-1954 – and follow the prompts.
Please leave a comment, in addition to the many below, if you have found a different and effective way to speak to a real IRS Tax agent. You can see some more suggestions in this video on IRS numbers and tips to get a live agent.