IRS Says Some Refunds Take More Than 21 Days

For millions of American taxpayers, the foremost question in their minds during tax season is how long it will take to get their refund.

The Internal Revenue Service has been pretty firm on the answer, maintaining that most refunds make their way into taxpayers’ accounts in 21 days or less after filing, provided the return was filed electronically and the taxpayer chose direct deposit.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and this is no different. There are times when a taxpayer’s refund can and will take longer than 21 days to be available.

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Putting on the brakes for some refunds

What can delay a taxpayer’s refund? Here are a few of the most common issues that can slow down an otherwise speedy refund:

  • The return has errors, is incomplete or is affected by identity theft or fraud.
  • The return needs a correction to the child tax credit or recovery rebate credit amount.
  • The return has a claim filed for an earned income tax credit, additional child tax credit, or includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation PDF.
  • The time it takes a taxpayer’s bank or credit union to post the refund to the taxpayer’s account.

Inaccurate or incomplete information on the return can also affect refund timing. The IRS notes that it “will contact taxpayers by mail if it needs more information to process their return.”

All this adds credence to the IRS caution that in spite of the hard work the agency does to get refunds out quickly, taxpayers shouldn’t bank on getting their refund by a certain calendar date.

Go online to track a refund

The IRS online tool Where’s My Refund? on can help taxpayers check the status of their refund. Electronic filers are urged not to be too quick on the trigger, though, as it’s best to wait 24 hours after filing before checking the status of a refund.

Paper filers need more patience, waiting four weeks after mailing their returns to checking on any refund.

Calling the IRS telephone assistance number or visiting a Taxpayer Assistance Center may not be any faster.

IRS representatives can only check the status of a refund if it’s been 21 days since the taxpayer electronically filed the return or six weeks since a paper return was mailed; or if the Where’s My Refund? tool tells the taxpayer to contact the IRS.

Source: COVID Tax Tip 2022-54

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