Where's My Refund?

Where’s my refund is one of the most ask questions after people file their taxes. Where’s my refund is asked so much that the IRS created an online tool, where taxpayers can check the status of their refund. Keep reading for additional information on how to check the status of your tax refund, causes of tax refund delays, and steps to take if your tax refund is delayed.

How to Check the Status of Your Tax Refund

Typically, the IRS takes 3 weeks to process e-filed tax returns and 6 weeks to process tax returns mailed to the IRS. If your tax return has been delayed, you can check the status of your tax return with the IRS’ online tool: Where’s My Refund?

To check the status of your tax refund with the online tool, you will just need the following information:

  • Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number;
  • Filing Status; and
  • Refund Amount.

The IRS updates the online tool daily. If it has been less than 3 weeks since you filed your tax return (4 weeks, if you mailed it in), your information may not be reflected in the online database yet. Once the online tool has been updated with the information for your tax return, it will advise you if the IRS needs you to contact them with additional information.  

Causes of Tax Refund Delays

The IRS can delay processing tax refunds for many reasons including:

If your tax refund is delayed, you can check the IRS’ online tool Where’s My Refund? for additional information. Always remember, the IRS will not email or call you regarding your tax refund. If the IRS needs additional information, the Where’s My Refund? tool will advise you to contact the IRS, or the IRS will send you a notice in the mail requesting additional information and advising you about what you need to do or how to contact the IRS.

Incorrect or Missing Information

If your tax return is incorrect or missing information, the IRS may delay the processing of your tax return. The IRS will send you a notice or letter if they have questions about your tax return, need to verify your identity, or need additional information. The IRS will not email or call you.

If you receive a notice or letter from the IRS, read it carefully. It is important you respond to the IRS by the date on the notice. If the IRS changed your tax return, you will need to compare the information in the notice with your original tax return. The notice or letter will include important information regarding what the IRS needs to finish processing your tax return. If you receive a notice or letter from the IRS and are not sure what you should do, contact the tax professionals at Gudorf Tax Group.

Receiving Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit

Due to the increase in tax identity theft in recent years, Congress passed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act. The law helps to protect taxpayers against tax refund theft. The PATH Act requires the IRS to delay processing tax refunds for taxpayers who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit until mid-February. Without any other issues, the earliest the IRS expects taxpayers with either of these credits to start receiving their refunds is at the end of February. This is one of the situations where if you e-file early, it may take longer than 3 weeks to process your tax return.

The PATH Act implemented this delay to allow taxpayers sufficient time to submit their tax returns. In the past, tax identity thieves would file tax returns in taxpayers’ names and receive their refunds, before taxpayers even submitted their own valid tax return. Although the IRS would process the refund for the valid tax return, it would be delayed by 6 months, sometimes, longer. Now, with the delay, it allows the taxpayers time to submit their valid tax returns. If an identity thief submitted a tax return as well, the IRS will be able to flag the duplicate returns for the same taxpayer and confirm the valid tax return before issuing the refund.

Although this can be frustrating for taxpayers, the PATH Act is here to stay. It is helping the IRS to save billions by limiting tax refund theft. Also, if you are one of the millions of victims of tax refund theft, your tax refund will be processed much faster than in the past when the IRS had already paid out a tax refund to the identity thief.

Duplicate Tax Returns

If the IRS receives more than one tax return for the same taxpayer or if a dependent is claimed on more than one return, the IRS may delay processing your tax return.

When the IRS receives duplicate tax returns, the returns will be flagged for possible fraudulent activity in case someone has stolen your identity. Read above for additional information regarding what the IRS is doing to stop tax refund theft. Although flagging the tax returns will cause frustrating delays, it is much better than the delays caused if the IRS needs to pay out your tax refund twice.

Also, the IRS will delay processing refunds if a dependent is claimed on more than one return. Dependents are allowed only to be claimed on a single return. If parents do not file a joint return, the IRS will allow only one parent to claim the child(ren). If more than one taxpayer claims a dependent, the IRS will send a notice to both taxpayers advising them of the situation and giving the taxpayer that incorrectly claimed the dependent the opportunity to correct their tax return. If neither taxpayer corrects their tax return, the IRS will follow up with both taxpayers asking them to submit proof that they qualify to claim the dependent(s).  

Steps to Take if Your Tax Refund is Delayed

If you are owed a tax refund from the IRS, you should submit your tax return as soon as possible, especially if you are receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit. The IRS processes most returns that are e-filed within 3 weeks and mailed-in returns within 6 weeks. If your tax return has not been processed within that amount time, you should check the status of your tax return with the IRS’ online tax tool. The Where’s My Refund? tool will advise you if the IRS needs additional information.

If your receive a notice or letter from the IRS requesting additional or the Where’s My Refund? online tool advises you to contact the IRS and you are not sure what to do, contact the tax professionals at Gudorf Tax Group. They will review the information and advise you regarding your next steps to ensure you receive your refund as quick as possible.

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