Taxes Solving Tax Issues Why Your Tax Refund Is Delayed Wondering where your tax refund is? Here’s why it might be delayed By Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake Facebook Twitter Website Rebecca Lake has over a decade of experience researching and writing hundreds of articles on retirement, investing, budgeting, banking, loans, and more. She has been published by well-known finance brands including SoFi, Forbes, Chime, CreditCards.com, Investopedia, SmartAsset, Nerdwallet, Credit Sesame, LendingTree, and more. learn about our editorial policies Updated on March 24, 2022 Reviewed by David Kindness Reviewed by David Kindness David Kindness is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an expert in the fields of financial accounting, corporate and individual tax planning and preparation, and investing and retirement planning. David has helped thousands of clients improve their accounting and financial systems, create budgets, and minimize their taxes. learn about our financial review board Fact checked by Jess Feldman Fact checked by Jess Feldman Website Jess Feldman has been writing and editing for over five years, and currently focuses on financial topics. As an associate editor on the special projects team, she writes, edits, and develops tentpole brand projects across a variety of platforms. Since joining the financial space, she's developed an interest in finding ways to make the complex topic of finance relatable to younger generations, specifically via TikTok. Jess has a journalism degree from the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. learn about our editorial policies Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund From the IRS? Reasons Why Your Tax Refund May Be Delayed How To Check on Your Tax Refund Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: eclipse_images/Getty Images Getting a tax refund can provide a much-needed infusion of cash for many people. It can mean waiting for money that you might need to pay bills or boost your emergency fund if your tax refund is delayed. The average tax refund was $2,549 in 2020, according to the IRS, and in 2021, you may have been eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if you didn't receive any stimulus money in 2020. That's even more of a refund you might be entitled to, so it's important to know when it will actually hit your bank account (or mailbox). And now in 2022, refunds from 2021 tax returns are expected to be even more delayed than 2020 tax returns, according to an IRS warning published in January 2022. Here are a few things that might cause a tax refund delay. 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 your return is received. The IRS encourages taxpayers to file their returns electronically and request a direct deposit as the fastest way to get their tax refunds. Tax-filing season got its start on Jan. 24, 2022 this year, meaning the IRS started to accept and process tax returns on that day. You could potentially receive your tax refund by Feb. 14 if you file your return on or that date, and it is accepted and processed that day. That's assuming the IRS is able to get it out to you within the 21-day window and you elected to get 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 things could be holding 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 issues. 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. Note 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. For example, if: You omit a digit in your bank account or routing number and the number doesn't pass the IRS validation guidelines, your direct deposit will be canceled and you'll be issued a paper check instead.You incorrectly enter your bank account or routing number, but it passes the validation check, you'll receive a paper check if the financial institution receiving the direct deposit refund rejects it.You incorrectly enter your bank account or routing number and the designated financial institution accepts the deposit, you'll have to contact that bank to try and get your money back. Note The IRS doesn't intervene if your refund goes into someone else's bank account. You'll have to take up the issue with the bank that received the deposit. Claiming Certain 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. If you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), the IRS is required by law to review your return to verify your income, dependents, and other relevant information. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act requires the IRS to verify the information for taxpayers who claim the EITC or ACTC, no matter how early you file. Note If an individual files Form 8379 with a joint return for the injured spouse allocation, the time needed to process it is about 11 and 14 weeks. Filing a Paper Return The IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically and choose direct deposit to get their tax refund faster. You could be waiting up to eight weeks for your refund to be issued if you choose to file a paper return or need to do so for any reason. Note Mail delays related to COVID-19 might increase the wait time to receive a refund via paper check-in both 2021 and 2022. 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. If necessary, the IRS will send you Form 5071C, 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. Note 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, delaying 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 called a tax offset and it can apply to: Past-due child supportNon-tax debts owed to federal agencies (such as federal student loans)Unpaid state income tax obligationsCertain 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. Note If you still owe additional taxes after your refund has been offset, you'll have to arrange to pay it off. You might be able to set up an Installment Agreement payment plan with the IRS. You’re Being Audited The IRS audits a very small number of returns each year. It took a closer look at just 0.6% of all individual tax returns filed between tax years 2010 and 2018. On the off chance that your return is selected for an audit—either randomly or because your return triggered a red flag with the IRS—the processing of your refund might naturally be delayed until the government is able to accurately determine what you owe. How To Check on Your Tax Refund A tax refund delay can be nerve-racking. Fortunately, the IRS offers multiple ways to track your tax refund. First, 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 ITINFiling statusExact refund amount Info on the 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, so how long will it be delayed? The IRS usually accepts all amended tax returns. Since these are filed by mail, the processing time is longer than those filed electronically. It can take up to three months to get your amended tax refund back. It can take longer if the IRS disagrees with the updates, but you can track the status at any time from the IRS website. Will my state and federal tax refunds come at the same time? Even when filing at the same time, your state and federal refunds may not come simultaneously. While one may appear delayed, please take into consideration that they are 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. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Internal Revenue Service. "Filing Season Statistics for Week Ending December 11, 2020." IRS. "IRS Begins 2022 Tax Season; Urges Extra Caution for Taxpayers To File Accurate Tax Returns Electronically to Speed Refunds, Avoid Delays." Internal Revenue Service. "Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions." Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Tax Tip 2001-48 Refunds -- How Long Should They Take?" Internal Revenue Service. "When To Expect Your Refund If You Claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit." Internal Revenue Service. "Injured Spouse." Internal Revenue Service. "Compliance Presence." H&R Block. "IRS Amended Return Status." H&R Block. "Where's My Refund?"