The IRS processes tax returns based on a standard set of guidelines and instructions. These are codified in tax codes, which are then used across various internal systems to process returns, manage errors and eventually pay refunds.
These codes are simplified to tax topics for individual and business filers to provide insight and share information into what is currently happening with their tax return, why there are processing delays, when a refund will be paid or why it was lower than expected (offsets).
There are dozens of codes and topics, but one of the most common ones seen after filing a return is Tax Topic 152 (TC 152). You will generally see this on WMR/IRS2Go once your return has been received by the IRS and is under processing or delayed for some reason.
But it could have several implications once the IRS completes processing and they are setting expectations that your refund may be delayed (for a variety of reasons).
Should I worry if I see Tax Topic 152 on my Where is My Refund (WMR)?
There is no need to get too worried about this tax topic if you see it soon after your return is filed. Many early filers who submitted returns at the start of tax season, saw this message because the IRS backlogs, PATH delays, and system issues in the last few years has mean processing delays, due to no fault of the tax filer.
While most returns are processed within twenty-one days, Tax Topic 152, may be an early indication your return has been held for further review and could take longer than the standard 21 day processing timeframe.
Returns could be held longer than 21 days if you are making an injured spouse claim, submitting an amended return, or requesting a refund of tax withheld.
Once processing moves on or an issue is identified it will change to one of several other potential tax topics.
One your tax return processing resumes, you should see your refund in 10 to 14 days. Tax Topic 846 on your transcript will indicate payment, along with your WMR status going to refund paid.
When happens after Tax Topic 152 processing (Topic 151)?
If the Tax topic code changes to 151, then it means your return is under a potential audit or held for further examination.
Now audits, while scary, are done at different levels and for most people an audit just means an IRS agent will check your return manually and send you a letter with discrepancies, adjustments or asking for payment. You will also see tax code 420 or 424 reflected in your tax transcript at this stage.
The one tax topic you don’t want to see – because it could significantly delay your return and potential refund is Tax Topic 148. This topic means the tax filer is under an IRS fraud alert and are being subjected to an audit followed by a Identity or fraudulent return review.
This is something you will need to work with the IRS for to resolve, who will send a you a formal notice with details on the fraud alert.