After you file your income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service, you can view the status of your refund through the "Where's My Refund" service. The status of your refund typically appears within 24 hours from the date your electronic return is accepted or four weeks after you mail a paper return. If you don't have Internet access, you can also call the Refund Hotline at (800) 829-1954. Once you receive the status, if the details of your refund contain a filing reference code, there's a problem with your tax return.
Filing Reference Codes
The IRS has nearly 40 filing reference codes that denote a reason for the delay of a tax refund. For example, the IRS uses codes 1361, 1381 and 1401 to describe a refund held for payment of another tax liability. Code 1161 is used when a refund is held because a taxpayer files for bankruptcy on a tax debt. When the IRS doesn't have a specific code to represent a problem with a tax return, it uses filing reference code 1201.
Contacting the IRS
In most cases, along with a filing reference code, the IRS will provide you with a telephone number. Gather a copy of your income tax return and call the number provided. You'll have to provide the IRS agent with your Social Security number, filing status and adjusted gross income to prove your identity. Once your identity is verified, provide the agent with the filing reference code. The agent will explain the reason for the delay and tell you what steps to take to fix the problem, which might include sending in additional forms.
After you contact the IRS and provide other forms or information, continue to check the status of your return through the "Where's My Refund" or phone service. Once the problem is resolved and the status changes to "Refund Approved," you should receive a date for direct deposit or a date that the IRS plans to mail your return. If you opted for direct deposit, you should receive your refund within 21 days; a refund check might take a few weeks as well.
To prevent problems with your return in the future, be as accurate as possible when completing your income tax return. Double-check all of the figures before filing. Keep clear records if you own a business or itemize your deductions. If the IRS needs additional information in the future, you'll have the documents you need to resolve the problem.
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.