When it comes to tax season I receive a lot of reader questions, many tinged with a hint of desperation, around why IRS tax refunds are taking so long and what can be done to get refunds sooner rather than later. Here is a sampling of comments from the current and past tax seasons:
Help me please. I filled February 4th and my taxes were expected Feb 7th. I filled head of household and claimed both of my children and have my own business so I have a schedule c. I’m still waiting. All the websites are saying my taxes are still being processed and I need this money now and every time I call IRS I get automated people HELP [Jenny]
Well I filed on Feb 14 and still WMR [where is my refund] says still processing ugh IRS told me to wait till 21 days before I call them. Ugh [Shirley]I filed my federal on Jan. 30th and it was received on the 31st. I have called 3x and each person has told me something different. Two said there was an error on my return and they had not sent a letter, so it was something the IRS could correct. It has been the “21 days” they talk about, but nothing. I have received my state refund. How long is this going to take??? [Lisa]
I have the education form 8863 and I filed Jan 30 and been accepted, I understand that the form did not get released until Feb 14. How much longer and are they behind. I have bills to pay and a single mother? Getting frustrated and really impatient. [Rachelle]
Our taxes were turned in Jan 30th, by tax lady. We still have not received our Federal tax return but we have our state refund. It was turned in E file. How much longer is it going to take? Everyone around us is getting theirs but ours [Dusty]
Mine got accepted on Jan 22nd and it has been 20 days. WMR does not show the bar on where’s my refund nor a date. Just says that it is still being processed and a date will be available soon. I called the IRS and they said that I had to verify my identity and had to call another number and verify some information and was put on hold about 3 times. Then said it had been verified and it would take 9 weeks for me to get my refund. Help! [Alex]
2016 Tax Season Refund processing by the numbers (from WalletHub) : Average Wait time for IRS calls – 30.5 Minutes (62% unanswered); 700%+: Increase in tax-related identity theft cases vs 23% Decrease in IRS enforcement staff since 2010.
So what can you do if your tax refund is taking much longer to get than expected?
There are two main categories that cause your tax refund processing to taking longer than expected. Either something is wrong with your tax return filing, e.g. missing information, additional Identity fraud/verification (details below), incorrect social security numbers etc; or information from related sources (employer, ex-partner) do not add up. For example same dependent claimed in multiple tax returns. So here are a few things you can do to try and figure out why your tax refund is so taking so long to get to you.
- Check the IRS tax tool, where’s my refund (WMR) or IRS2Go mobile app, to get the official status of your refund (see estimated IRS refund schedule). It is updated daily (overnight) and provides the latest processing status of your tax refund. The IRS has announced that it expects to issue more than 90% of refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days (not business days). So even if you have submitted all your documents you probably need to wait for at least 21 days before taking on more drastic actions. And if you paper filed, you may need to wait more than 6 weeks before hearing back from the IRS.
- Why is my e-filed tax return in “Pending” status and the IRS has no record of my tax return? TurboTax experts say that after e-filing, your federal return may sit in “Pending” status 24-48 hours before its processing status changes. If you contact the IRS or try to look up your return or refund status on their site while your return is in “Pending” status, don’t be alarmed if they tell you they have no record of your return. This is normal; once the IRS acknowledges your return, they will update your status to via WMR to Return Received, Refund Approved and Refund Sent. See this article for more details on what the WMR refund status’ mean.
- What do these IRS refund status’ mean? Return Received means the IRS has your tax return and is processing/reviewing it. Your estimated refund date will be available as soon as the IRS finishes processing your return and confirm that your refund has been approved. Generally it takes just a few days for the status to shift from Return Received to Refund Approved if all is in order. But any issues with processing your return will delay things and a refund date will not be provided until your refund has been approved.In some cases the refund tracker graphic (shown here) will not be shown if your return is being reviewed prior to step two: “Refund Approved,” and instead an explanation or instructions will be provided by the IRS depending on the situation. This can happen even if you previously checked Where’s My Refund? and it showed the status as “Return Received” along with the tracker. If the IRS needs more information specific to your return, they will contact you by mail (be aware of IRS imitation scams). You should follow the instructions in the IRS letter as soon as possible to prevent further delays with receiving your return.
- Review your tax return and make sure there no obvious mistakes like missing names/SSN or forgetting to sign your tax return. According to the IRS, one of the main things causing people to experience delays in getting their refunds is returns that are not accurately completed. So to ensure you get your refund ensure your return is as accurate as possible. You can resubmit an amended tax return entering the changes and explaining why you need to amend your original tax return. You don’t have to redo your entire return, either. Just show the necessary changes and adjust your tax liability accordingly. You usually do not need to file an amended return because you forgot to include tax forms such as W-2s or 1099 forms. The IRS normally will send a separate request asking for those documents.
- Get online help from various articles on people seeing delays with their refunds. On one of my articles covering the IRS refund schedule I got 5000+ comments, with the following useful real life tips you won’t find elsewhere:
Obamacare forms for are still causing a lot of delays : I (Jeff) filed Jan 20…accepted Jan 21. I received a letter about affordable care act on Feb 10 requesting a new 1095. Sent them the forms same day. I called them a week later and nobody would talk to me until we waited the 4-6 weeks as stated on the letter. Called 4 weeks later and they confirmed that they accepted the forms and updated affordable care act on my return and should receive a return within 7days. On day 7 march 16, I received a letter stating more info was needed. I finally spoke with someone who was willing to share info at the IRS. Because I lost my job and income was cut in half between 2013-2014, I was considered highly likely someone trying to commit fraud. They said I can’t get any info until 45 days after my income verification letter which is April 30.
If you have debt or penalties from the prior year, you may see a long delay in your refund or offsets to what you expected refund. Jessica filed her taxes and they were accepted on 1/22/2015. After the 21 days past [Jessica] contacted the IRS who advised there was a hold on my taxes but they couldn’t tell me what for. At this time I had error code 570 on my tax transcript. The said they had to send a referral off to have someone look at my taxes to see what was wrong…i had to give them 30 days to review my info. After the 30 day time frame I called the IRS back the agent advised no one had reviewed my tax info there for they had to send it back off and I had to wait another 30 days for them to review it. A couple of weeks after the 2nd phone call to the IRS i got another code on my transcript of 896 Refund applied to non-IRS debt with my full refund amount to the side of it…I called the IRS back to see what the code was …the agent advised my refund was sent over to the Department of the Treasury so they could pull whatever amount i owed out (witch turns out was the OBAMA fee for not having Ins. last year even through the Irs agent I spoke with advised it was not). The IRS agent advised that from looking at my transcript it seemed like they were taking my full refund even through I do not owe anything to them. A few days later i checked my transcript…there was a new code of 892 Correction to interest credit transferred out. Now I am still waiting for my refund and cant call the IRS back until 4/27.
Contact a Tax Advocate per Renee’s advice: ” Hope this helps. I filed via Turbo Tax and was accepted Feb 19th and on the 20th I received an Auto call stating my Healthcare.gov was off and to wait for the paper. My WMR status went into “Your refund is still processing” stage after March 6th
I called Healthcare.gov and was told that my health insurance was only off by $1 so I didn’t have to amend my taxes.
March 16th I contact the Tax Advocate and she was able to look deeper because my 2014 Transcripts show N/A as if I never filed. The Tax Advocate said that IRS did not accept my Taxes until March 4th and since the Healthcare.gov screwed up.. Everyone has to count 40 days from the time it was accepted. Although my healthcare form was only for a $1 difference, there were many that were a lot larger than $1
So, It looks like I have to count 40 Days from the REAL IRS Acceptance Date of March 4th.. This is 13 days after Turbo Tax stated that my taxes were accepted.
I don’t think this is Turbo Taxes fault. It’s not Obama’s fault either. I’m grateful to pay $131 for Premium Insurance instead of the $489 monthly premium that was increasing through BCBS.. I even have the same Account with Blue Cross…
So.. there you have it.. if it was accepted March 1st.. Count 13 days.. That’s when its really accepted.. then count 40 additional days before your refund or taxes move forward hope this helps”
- If you claim certain credits like the Earned Income Credit or Education credits in your tax return, the IRS announced that refunds these returns generate may take longer. So expect your refund to take longer in this case – possibly into April, even if you filed early.
- Hire an accountant or tax services firm to follow up this issue on your behalf particularly if you have a tax obligation to the IRS. But be warned, these are not the cheapest options and if you refund is less than $1,000 it may not be worth the cost.
- Calling the IRS is an option, though getting through to someone is a challenge. You can go the IRS resources page to get the latest contact IRS numbers/locations.Here is a way to get a real IRS person:
- Dial 800-829-1040 – if they say they have high volume calls hang up, you’re wasting your time, call again until it doesn’t say high volume.
- Then dial 1- for English or 2 for Spanish.
- Then listen to the options and dial 2 then 1 then 4, then 2 again, until it finally asks for your social… they will try to trick you after that, but don’t dial anything it will take you to an operator. it’s a process but you’ll get to someone as long as you DO NOT say you have questions about your refund, cause then it will tell you to go online. make sure your cell is charge when you call cause you can wait up till an hour. Good luck people, and hope we all get our refund. Heck, we worked for it!!! =)
Tax Payer Identify Verification Delaying IRS Tax Refund Processing and Direct Deposit Payments
In a lot of recent cases, it appears that the IRS is delaying refund processing because they are having to spend a lot more time validating tax payer identities given the rise in online tax related fraud over the last few years. In most cases the IRS will notify selected tax filers via WMR or mail (they will never call you) to contact a IRS number to verify their identity. After verification it could take up to 9 weeks for you to get a refund. See more in this article.
Refund Offset – Why Your Refund May be less than expected
Another area of confusion for those expecting a refund is that when they get a refund it is actually less than the amount they were expecting or provided by their e-filing tool. The reason for this is that the federal government has “offset” or deducted monies from your tax refund to cover debts you owe other federal agencies. Under the law, federal payments such as tax refunds can be collected against by approved agencies (e.g the IRS) before being paid to you. You will get a letter from the IRS explaining this offset to your federal refund and why it differs from what was estimated in your filed return. They will give you an opportunity to dispute this collection, but you will have to prove you had no federal obligations. If you have questions regarding the offset of your refund you can call the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) on 800-304-3107.
If I can order my IRS tax transcript does it mean I am getting my refund direct deposited soon?
This question comes up a lot and I have seen a few comments on this as shown below.
Tracie – If you can get your tax return transcript then you will have your DD within two days I hope this helps someone GOD BLESS AND I HOPE WE ALL GET OURS IN A TIMELY MANNER SINCE THE FIX IN THE SYSTEM
Ashley – Filed and accepted on the 19th. Still can’t order transcripts online or over the phone. No info available in WMR. Says still processing. I seen on another forum that the IRS does bulk approvals on Sundays and Wednesdays, so I’m PRAYING I am part of that chaos so I can get my money this week! Never had to wait this long.
jessew – I have talked to the IRS and they finally moved my bar from 1 bar to 2 approved this morning. Go to the home page and request for a transcript if it goes through they have processed ur taxes that is what the irs lady tolled me. good luck everyone
Estella – I ordered my transcripts yesterday and was able to. If you are able to do so then you’re taxes have approved. Transcript have to be accurate because they are used for loan purposes. I filed on the 23 and was accepted same day. This morning I was approved with a DDD of 02/10.
Yes there is a correlation because to get a transcript the IRS generally has to have processed your tax return (and refund where applicable) and are an official IRS document. But the IRS is very clear that being able to request a transcript does not mean you will imminently be getting a refund and is among the common myths and misconceptions repeated in social media. They still say that checking the WMR tool is the best and official way to check your refund status.
However I have been seeing a lot of comments from people saying that when the WMR site provides limited information on the refund, requesting a free IRS transcript seems to be another way of checking the status of the refund. Generally if you can request a transcript, it means the refund is on the way and the IRS has completed processing of your tax return. But this is all anecdotal evidence.
Tax Topic 151 vs 152 notice
When you log on to the WMR website or IRS2Go mobile app, you may be presented with a message to refer to IRS Tax topic 151 or 152 in relation to your refund. But what do these mean? Tax Topic 151 simply means that you’re getting a tax offset (see above) which may result in your refund being less than you expected. You will get an official IRS letter/report explaining the actual offset and adjustments to your tax return, and details on how to appeal this action – but likely it will delay you getting your refund. While not great news, the silver lining here is that the IRS has processed your return and your adjusted refund (where applicable) should be on its way.
Tax Topic 152 on the other hand means means you’re getting a tax refund in line with IRS processing guidelines (generally within 21 days) and this notice confirm the methods for payment (direct deposit, check).
I know it can be really frustrating to see ongoing delays in getting your tax refund. My answer is be patient, look into the above steps and contact a tax advocate or tax professional if you get nowhere with the IRS.
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