Refund delayed? Here’s what you need to know

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It’s hard not to get upset when your money is stuck.


Key points

  • Many people rely on their tax refunds to pay their bills.
  • If your refund is late, there are several possible explanations, including entering the wrong information.

Some people get a few hundred dollars back in the form of a tax refund. Others have to pay thousands of dollars to the IRS.

Either way, if you’ve already submitted your taxes, you may be anxious for your refund to arrive in your bank account or in the mail. But if it’s been weeks since you filed your return and your refund still hasn’t arrived, here are some of the reasons why you might be experiencing a delay in receiving that money.

1. You filed a paper return

Some people are used to filing tax returns on paper and like to stick to this method. But one thing you should know is that it takes the IRS much longer to process paper tax returns than electronically filed returns.

The typical turnaround time for a return submitted electronically is three weeks. With a paper return, the usual processing time is six weeks. Plus, the IRS is currently sitting on a huge backlog of paper returns from the last year, so if you’ve gone the paper route, you may end up waiting longer for your tax refund.

2. You made a mistake when filing your return

Usually, the IRS will attempt to correct mathematical errors and minor, obvious errors on a tax return rather than rejecting it outright. But if you make a bigger mistake, the IRS may be trying to reconcile it, which could cause a delay on the refund front.

If your return is rejected, you will receive a notice that you must resubmit it. And until you do, the IRS won’t be able to send you your money.

3. You entered the wrong information for direct deposit

One of the easiest ways to get your tax refund is to sign up for direct deposit. This way, you don’t have to worry about losing a check in the mail because the IRS can electronically transfer funds to your bank account.

But if you enter the wrong bank account information — like the wrong account number or the wrong routing number — when signing up for direct deposit, the refund sent by the IRS will be rejected. From there, the IRS will need to take that payment back and figure out how to reissue it to you. The result? A potentially long heist.

How to check your tax refund

In an ideal world, you would file a tax return and see your refund arrive within days. But processing a tax return takes time, and sometimes factors like the above can come into play and cause your refund to be blocked.

If you want to know when to expect that money, the IRS has a Where’s My Refund tool you can use to check its status. To get this information, you will need:

  • Social Security number
  • Tax status
  • Exact refund amount

From there, the IRS should be able to give you a bit more information about the status of your refund. Keep in mind, however, that it may take 24 hours from the time you submit an electronic tax return for this tool to work for you. And it can take over a month if you file your taxes on paper.

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