Although it seems like it would be easy to change your direct deposit information after filing your tax return in the electronic age, routing your refund to a new account may be impossible. The IRS can automatically correct some errors with your direct deposit, but you may lose your refund forever if you send it to a stranger's account.
You cannot change the account that you want your tax return deposited to after you file your return. The IRS cannot reverse a direct deposit because that would require the IRS to identify the owner of the account. Even if you originally deposit the refund into one of your own accounts, the bank cannot reveal the identity of the owner of a private bank account to the IRS, according to Kay Bell of Bankrate.com.
What Happens to Your Refund
If you gave the IRS a number to an existing account, the direct deposit will go through in about 14 days after you file your return. If the number is for a closed or nonexistent account, the direct deposit cannot go through and the refund will return to the IRS. The IRS will then send a paper check to the return address on your tax return in about three to four weeks.
If the bank account number belongs to someone else or is an active account, the direct deposit will go through regardless of whether your name is on the account. When this happens, the only thing you can do is contact the bank that services the account and explain the situation. Thus, you must rely on the bank's customer service to help recover your funds.
The only thing you can do to prevent sending your return to the wrong account is to review account numbers and ensure the account is open before putting the information on your tax return. If you fill out Form 8888 so you can split your return between multiple accounts, check the box that asks if the account is a checking or savings account. Individual retirement accounts usually count as "savings."
Russell Huebsch has written freelance articles covering a range of topics from basketball to politics in print and online publications. He graduated from Baylor University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.