Why Your Tax Refund Is Delayed

Wondering where your tax refund is? Here’s why it might be delayed

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Receiving a tax refund can provide a much-needed infusion of cash into their budget for many people. It can mean waiting for money that you need to pay bills or to make an emergency purchase if your refund is delayed.

The average tax refund was $3,039 in the 2022 filing season when taxpayers were submitting their 2021 tax returns, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Here are a few things that might cause a delay in receiving that money.

Key Takeaways

  • The IRS normally issues refunds within about three weeks of receiving returns if there are no problems or issues with them.
  • Making certain mistakes on your return can result in receiving a CO2000 Notice rather than your expected refund, and you won't receive your refund unless and until the problem is resolved.
  • The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act requires that the IRS wait until mid-February to issue refunds that result from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) so the agency has time to ensure that the taxpayers are entitled to them.
  • You can speed up your refund by filing your return electronically and requesting direct deposit to your bank account.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Tax Refund From the IRS?

The IRS aims to issue tax refunds in less than 21 calendar days after a return is received. The agency encourages taxpayers to file their returns electronically and request a direct deposit as the fastest way to get their refunds.

Tax-filing season got its start on Jan. 23, 2023 this year. The IRS started to accept and process tax returns on that date. You could potentially have received your tax refund by Feb. 13 if you filed your return on that date, and it's immediately accepted and processed. But that's assuming that you elected to receive your refund via direct deposit. You might be waiting up to eight weeks to receive your refund if you filed a paper tax return.

Reasons Why Your Tax Refund May Be Delayed

Several issues can hold up your refund, but some problems are more common than others. Here are some of the most common causes of a tax refund delay.

Incorrect Information or Mistakes

Mistakes can cost you precious time when you're waiting for your refund. Your tax return will be flagged if the information you provide doesn't match up with IRS records. You'd have to wait for it to be reviewed by an agent before a refund can be issued.

Simple math errors can also cause delays. The IRS will send you a CP2000 Notice explaining the nature of the problem if it catches a math error on your return. The notice will tell you how to respond.


Math errors could result in getting a smaller refund, or even owing more in taxes after your tax return is recalculated, so it's important to carefully double check that all your information is accurate.

You could also experience a tax refund delay if you enter incorrect bank account information for direct deposit. When your refund arrives can depend on several factors in this case:

  • Your direct deposit will be canceled and you'll be issued a paper check instead if you omit a digit in your bank account or routing number and the number doesn't pass the IRS validation guidelines.
  • You'll receive a paper check if the financial institution that you intended to receive the direct deposit refund rejects it for any reason. This can happen if you incorrectly enter your bank account or routing number, but it passes the validation check.
  • You'll have to contact the bank to try to get your money back if you incorrectly entered your bank account or routing number and the designated financial institution accepts the deposit to someone else's account or an account that doesn't exist.


The IRS can't intervene if your refund goes into someone else's bank account. You'll have to take the issue up with the bank that received the deposit.

Claiming Certain Tax Credits

Tax credits reduce your tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis, but claiming certain credits can slow down the processing of your return and cause a tax refund delay. The IRS is required by law to review your return to verify your income, dependents, and other relevant information if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act requires that the agency wait until mid-February to issue these refunds no matter how early they file their returns, giving it time to verify the information for taxpayers who claim the EITC or ACTC. The IRS indicates that taxpayers who claimed either or both of these credits should receive their refunds by Feb. 28, 2023 if you chose to get it by direct deposit and the agency finds no issues with your return.


The time necessary for processing is about 11 to 14 weeks if you file Form 8379 with a joint return to claim an injured spouse allocation.

Filing a Paper Return

The IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically and choose direct deposit to get their tax refunds faster. You could be waiting up to eight weeks for your refund to be issued if you choose to file a paper return or find that you have to do so for any reason.

Security Measures

The IRS might enforce a tax refund delay if it suspects that your identity has been stolen and used to fraudulently file a return or claim a refund in your name. The IRS will send you Form 5071C if necessary, asking you to verify your information before your refund can be released.

The IRS also allows taxpayers to create an Identity Protection Pin to help secure their tax information from identity thieves.

Submit Form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit, to the IRS along with a paper copy of your tax return if you think you’ve been the victim of tax-related identity theft or fraud. The IRS will investigate the matter for you.


Several states also have their own policies and procedures for delaying tax refunds in order to help prevent tax-related identity theft and refund fraud. They include Iowa, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Check with your state’s Department of Revenue, Office of the Tax Commissioner, or other state office/department if your state tax refund is delayed to see if it’s under review for identity theft or fraud.

Unpaid Debts or Taxes

Outstanding debts can come back to haunt you and delay your tax refund. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) will reduce or withhold your tax refund if you owe certain types of debt. This is referred to as a tax offset and it can apply to:

  • Past-due child support
  • Non-tax debts owed to federal agencies (such as federal student loans)
  • Unpaid state income tax obligations
  • Certain unemployment compensation debts owed to a state

The BFS will send you a notice if part of your tax refund is offset to pay a debt. You can dispute the debt with the agency listed as the payee on the notice or with the BFS if you disagree with the amount that was offset from your refund.

Your refund can also be offset if you have an outstanding federal tax bill. The IRS will send you a CP49 Notice in this case, explaining that part or all of your refund was used to satisfy a federal tax debt.


You'll have to arrange to pay it off if you still owe additional taxes after your refund has been offset. You might be able to set up an Installment Agreement payment plan with the IRS to satisfy the balance. 

You’re Being Audited

The IRS audits a very small number of returns each year, but the processing of your refund might naturally be delayed until the government is able to accurately determine what you owe on the off chance that your return is selected for an audit. This can occur either randomly or because your return triggered a red flag with the IRS.

How To Check on Your Tax Refund

A missing or delayed tax refund delay can be nerve racking. Fortunately, the IRS offers multiple ways to track your tax refund. You can check the status using the IRS’s online Where's My Refund? tool. You'll have to enter your:

  • Social Security number or ITIN
  • Filing status
  • Exact refund amount

Info on this page is updated daily. You can also check where your refund is by using the IRS2Go app.

You can call the IRS to track down your tax refund if the Where's My Refund tool tells you to call, or if it's been 21 days or more since you e-filed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I had to amend my tax return. How long will my refund be delayed?

The IRS usually accepts all amended tax returns and taxpayers have been able to e-file these returns since the 2020 tax year. But this wasn't always the case, and the processing time is longer than those filed electronically if you file a paper copy by mail. It can take up to three months to get your amended tax refund back. It can take even longer if the IRS disagrees with the updates, but you can still track the status at any time from the IRS website.

Will my state and federal tax refunds come at the same time?

Your federal and state refunds may not come simultaneously even if you file your returns at the same time. One may appear delayed, but they're coming from two different sources. You can check the status of your federal refund with the IRS and your state refund on your home state's website.

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