Haven’t got your tax refund yet? What to do if your IRS money is delayed

It’s nearly autumn and the IRS is still working to process millions of tax returns. If you’re one of the people still waiting for your federal tax refund check, be aware that the tax agency is receiving a record number of phone calls and still working through a massive backlog of returns. Many taxpayers are waiting to get the money to help with bills, debt and other expenses, but they don’t have any idea where their money is.

To add to that, the IRS has also been busy with stimulus checks, adjustments for 2020 returns, child tax credit payments and refunds for tax overpayment on unemployment benefits. The “plus-up” stimulus payments and the third advance monthly payment of the expanded child tax credit — which goes out on Sept. 15 — could give families some financial relief, but an overdue tax refund would be an even bigger help. And unfortunately, taxpayers are still waiting for a payment date or clue that their check is on the way.

We’ll show you how to track your money using the online Where’s My Refund tool and check your unemployment refund status with your tax transcript. To learn more on economic aid, here are ways to see if you qualify for child tax credit payments. If you’re wondering about future stimulus payments or the latest on unemployment benefits, we can tell you about that, too. This story is updated frequently.

Why federal tax refunds are delayed right now

Because of the pandemic, the IRS ran at restricted capacity in 2020, which put a strain on its ability to process tax returns and created a backlog. The combination of the shutdown, three rounds of stimulus payments, challenges with paper-filed returns and the tasks related to implementing new tax laws and credits created a “perfect storm,” according to a National Taxpayer Advocate review of the 2021 filing season to Congress.

The IRS is open again and currently processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence, but limited resources continue to cause delays. The IRS said it’s also taking more time for 2020 tax returns that need review, such as determining recovery rebate credit amounts for the first and second stimulus checks — or figuring out earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit amounts.

Here’s a list of reasons your income tax refund might be delayed:

  • Your tax return has errors.
  • It’s incomplete.
  • Your refund is suspected of identity theft or fraud.
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • Your return needs further review.
  • Your return includes Form 8379 (PDF), injured spouse allocation — this could take up to 14 weeks to process.

If the delay is due to a necessary tax correction made to a recovery rebate credit, earned income tax or additional child tax credit claimed on your return, the IRS will send you an explanation. If there’s a problem that needs to be fixed, the IRS will first try to proceed without contacting you. However, if it needs any more information, it will write you a letter.

The IRS’ timeline for processing tax returns

The IRS usually issues tax refunds within three weeks, but some taxpayers have been waiting months to receive their payments. If there are any errors, or if you filed a claim for an earned income tax credit or the child tax credit, the wait could be pretty lengthy. If there is an issue holding up your return, the resolution “depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return,” according to its website.

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. For example, with refunds going into your bank account via direct deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post the money to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you could be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. If you submitted a tax return by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks for your tax refund to arrive…Read more>>


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