Still no tax refund? What to do if your IRS money is delayed

We’re in the final stretch of summer, and the IRS has millions of unprocessed tax returns to get through. So if you’re still patiently waiting for your tax refund, be aware that the tax agency is trying to clear its massive backlog from the pandemic. The IRS has received a record number of calls from taxpayers in the dark about their money who need it to help with bills, debt and everyday expenses.

On top of everything, 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 some families a buffer, but an overdue tax refund would be an even bigger help.

Has your refund gotten lost in the shuffle? We’ll show you how to track your money using the online Where’s My Refund tool and check your unemployment refund status by viewing your tax transcript. To learn more on economic aid, here are ways to know 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 tax refunds are coming so late this year

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.

How to use the IRS’ Where’s My Refund tool

To check the status of your 2020 income tax refund using the IRS tracker tools, you’ll need to give some information: your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — single, married or head of household — and your refund amount in whole dollars, which you can find on your tax return. Also, make sure it’s been at least 24 hours (or up to four weeks if you mailed your return) before you start tracking your refund.

Using the IRS tool Where’s My Refund, go to the Get Refund Status page, enter your SSN or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Submit. If you entered your information correctly, you’ll be taken to a page that shows your refund status. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, you’ll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with whether you filed electronically or on paper.

The IRS also has a mobile app called IRS2Go that checks your tax refund status — it’s available in English and Spanish. You’ll be able to see if your return has been received, approved and sent. In order to log in, you’ll need some information — your Social Security number, filing status and expected refund amount. The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight, so if you don’t see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the following day. Once your return and refund are approved, you’ll receive a personalized date by which to expect your money…Read more>>


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