Filling out tax forms is never fun, although for students it's a little easier since they can usually qualify for the EZ form. You might breathe a sigh of relief once you've turned in your tax forms, but the stress level might come back up if you sign up for direct deposit and something goes wrong. Don't worry too much; fixing a problem with a deposit is usually pretty straightforward.
Use the IRS Tools
If you think the Internal Revenue Service messed up your direct deposit because it hasn't arrived yet, the agency might just be bogged down with a huge number of tax forms to go through. If you filed your return online, you can check the status of your refund 72 hours after filing. If you mailed in your tax return, wait three to four weeks before checking the status of your refund. You'll need your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact amount of your refund. The IRS site called "Where's My Refund?" will show you if your tax return is still being processed or if the IRS encountered a problem trying to send your deposit to your bank.
Deposit Never Showed Up
If the IRS website shows that a direct deposit has been made for you, but your bank account isn't indicating a deposit, it's possible that your deposit went to the wrong bank account. This could be a mistake made by the IRS, or you might have entered the wrong account information or routing number on your return. If you entered the wrong information, the IRS suggests contacting the bank that received your deposit and explaining the error. Not all banks will move the money without a direct letter from the IRS, so you may need to fill out a Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund, to ask the IRS to contact the bank. In the unlikely event that neither of these steps works and you still can't get your money, you might need to file a civil lawsuit -- which may not be worth the expense and hassle, depending on how much you've lost.
Too Little Money
If the IRS does send you a deposit, but it's less than you should receive, you'll have a little investigating to do. You might have miscalculated your refund, so the IRS recalculated and sent you the corrected amount. The IRS might have taken back some of your refund to cover other government expenses that you owe, such as taxes you may owe from previous years or a defaulted student loan. The IRS suggests that you wait two weeks after receiving the smaller refund to see if the IRS sends you a notice explaining the difference. If you don't get a notice, check the "Where's My Refund?" page for more information, or call 1-800-829-1040 for more information.
Too Much Money
Sometimes the IRS mistakenly sends you more money than you expected. If this happens, don't cash the check unless you get a notice from the IRS stating that it found an error in your form and raised your refund amount accordingly. If the IRS doesn't send you a notice within two weeks, call 1-800-829-1040. The IRS will hold you responsible for any extra money it erroneously deposited into your account. If you get a notice requesting the extra money, return it immediately or you might get charged interest on the extra amount. Worse yet, if you spend the extra money you might even get charged with a felony.
- IRS.gov: Checking the Status of Your Refund
- IRS.gov: Refund Inquiries
- Komo News: Direct Deposit Mistakes Give IRS Refunds to Wrong Person
- MSN Money: 5 Reasons You May Not Get a Refund
- IRS.gov: Ten Things to Know About Tax Refunds
- Taxpayer Advocate Service: Income Tax Refund Delivery
- EY Financial Planning Center: IRS Refund Check Issues
- Consumerist: IRS Gives $110,000 To Wrong Guy, Now He's In Jail
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.