IRS Refund Problems

by Lainie Petersen ; Updated July 27, 2017
Waiting for your tax refund? You aren't alone.

Checking your mailbox every day for your refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)? You are not alone. Millions of people are eagerly awaiting their checks too. While most taxpayers have no problems getting their refund checks, sometimes checks are delayed. Fortunately, the IRS has automated systems that can help you track the status of your check and resolve problems if they occur.

IRS Tax Refunds

Employers usually withhold a certain percentage of your salary for the payment of federal income tax. But sometimes, these withholdings are greater than the taxes that you are actually obligated to pay. By filing an annual income tax return, you can find out if you are entitled to a refund from the IRS.

Time Frame

If you filed your return by mail, your refund will be sent within six weeks from the date it was received by the IRS. If you filed your return electronically, your refund will be mailed within three weeks of its receipt. If you opted for direct deposit of your refund, your wait time may be even less. On the other hand, refunds from amended tax returns can take eight to 12 weeks to arrive.

Checking on Refund

The IRS offers two options for checking on your refund: You can call the IRS's refund hotline (800-829-1954) or use their online "Where's My Refund" service. To use these services, you will need your Social Security number, your filing status (Did you file jointly as a married couple? As an individual?), and the amount of your refund. The IRS asks that you wait three days after filing an electronic return, or three weeks after mailing your return, before using these services.

Reason for Refund Delays

Refund delays are often caused by errors in the tax return. Wrong Social Security numbers, missing documents and bad math can slow your refund down considerably. Plus, there is always the possibility of your refund, or return, getting lost or misdirected in the mail.

Prevention/Solution

Before mailing your return, make sure that you have signed it and have attached all necessary forms. If your return is very complex, you may want to consider hiring a professional tax preparer or use an online tax filing service.

If you have not received your refund check within 28 days of its mailing, contact the IRS. They can usually get a replacement check sent to you. If your check was returned to the IRS because you moved, you can update your address online at IRS.gov.

If you mailed your return, or requested a paper check, consider filing your taxes online and requesting your return via direct deposit in the future. There is no risk of either return nor refund getting lost in the mail, and you can cut your refund check wait in half.

About the Author

Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

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