Many tax filers are again seeing the message below on the IRS’ Where is My Refund (WMR) page or IRS2Go app days after their return is filed and accepted by the IRS, including after PATH restrictions have lifted.
Unfortunately this message just seems to create more frustration and confusion for many filers, because it does not tell them much.
In this article I will try and shed some light on what this general IRS message means for your tax return processing and potential refund payment timeline.
Feel free to leave a comment below with your individual circumstance or experience. As you can see you are not alone.
What Does This Message Mean?
This processing message is essentially the default IRS notice that pops when your return is likely to take more than the standard 21 day IRS refund processing timeline.
Unfortunately for many tax filers it will mean a delay to their refund payment and a likely downward adjustment or offset, if the IRS cannot reconcile the amounts claimed versus what they have on their records.
The reference to Tax Topic 152 in the WMR/IRS2Go status box is a general or informational link to their standard refund processing timeline and potential causes of delays.
It is basically the IRS telling you to stay patient and hold on until they finish processing. It also lists several reasons why your return may be delayed, in order to set future expectations.
Options and next steps
You can try and use your IRS master file cycle code on your account transcript to get more insight, but this may be of limited value in understanding when your return will progress to the next stage of processing.
Once your tax return does progress (anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks) it will either go for further manual reviews, a more comprehensive IRS examination, or you will be notified that the refund was adjusted (TC570) or offset (TC898), before the final refund amount is paid (TC 846).
Note that in some cases this message may also be the result of pending identity verification checks (e.g. via ID.me) that that IRS is waiting for the filer to complete or respond to.
So ensure you check your mail for any official IRS letters or your IRS account, that require you to take action on an IRS request.
Tax Season Update – IRS refund delays
The latest tax season seems to going much better than last year, mainly due to increased IRS staffing and no new pandemic stimulus or expanded credits to administer.
But there are still delays and despite on time PATH processing, there is clear frustration and stress being expressed by many tax filers.
Per the IRS operations page for the current tax season, where the extended delays have been acknowledged, the IRS is saying it can take 60 to 120 days for them to deal with tax returns that require special handling. This is two to three times what it normally takes.
Other causes for extended delays are due to the manual processing of past year amended returns and tax returns which still need to be adjusted for incorrectly claimed refundable credit amounts related to the EITC, RRC or CTC. The backlog however is much smaller than a few months ago.
While tax returns are opened and processed in the order received by the IRS, they have also said that paper filed returns, filings with errors or missing information, or where is suspected identity theft or fraud, will also face longer than normal delays because of special/manual handling required to resolve issues.
The IRS will first try and fix these internally before contacting the tax filer, which is why you may be seeing the return processing has been delayed beyond the normal timeframe message on WMR or IRS2Go.
If they cannot fix it they will contact you (via mail) and update your processing status and subsequent tax transaction codes accordingly.
Contacting the IRS for refund processing delays
Many have tried contact the IRS to see if they can find out what is taking so long with their refund.
But getting a live agent has been a challenge, and even when they reach someone they are basically told what I referenced above. You can see more feedback and examples in the comments forum below this article.
Until the IRS finishes processing these under review returns, a lot of their customer service agents will not know much more than you are being told.
They may however have more insight into the root cause (e.g tax credit reconciliation issue, identity related delays) but they will still need to wait till a formal determination is made and the next steps determined.
The good news, and I wanted to finish this article with some hope, is that select filers are seeing a faster than predicted turn around in their refund payments, even if they see the above message. So fingers crossed that the IRS is able to move faster as tax season progress.
See more on this topic discussed in this related video.
How Long Is it Taking For Refund Payments After This Message?
The good news is that many tax payers are reporting a change in status from “processing” to “refund sent” within four weeks, versus the 90 to 120 day official guidance.
Messages like the one below are appearing more frequently, showing that the IRS is now processing backlogs more efficiently. Good news for those stuck in this situation!