Tax Refund Missing? Reasons You Never Received One

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Tax Refund Missing? Reasons You Never Received One

You’re undoubtedly wondering how quickly your refund will come once you’ve completed your taxes for the year, particularly if you have big plans for it. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that nine out of ten taxpayers who file online will get their refunds within 21 days.

But what if so much time has passed and your refund is still nowhere to be found? Here’s what you should know and do.

Key Takeaways

  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says that taxpayers who e-file can generally expect to receive their refunds within 21 days.
  • You can check on the status of your refund at the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? page.
  • Reasons why you haven’t received your refund can range from simple math errors on your return to identity theft and tax fraud. Or it might simply mean an unusually high processing volume at the IRS.

First, Check Your Refund Status Online

If you’re wondering where your return is, start by visiting the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? website. According to the IRS, you will need:

Click the Check My Refund Status button, provide the relevant information, and you’ll be able to see the results. Unfortunately, this application does not give a lot of information regarding why your money could be delayed. It may suggest you to contact the IRS, where you should be able to get further information. However, according to the IRS, you should not contact until one of the following two conditions is met:

  • It has been 21 or more days since you e-filed.
  • The Where’s My Refund? online tool tells you to contact the IRS.

7 Reasons for a Late Tax Refund

Many factors might cause a delay in the processing and distribution of your tax refund. It might be delayed, for example, if you submitted your return too early or waited until the last minute. If you attempted to file in January, for example, a last-minute modification to the tax rules might have caused an issue on your return, slowing the procedure. Similarly, if the IRS is swamped with a higher-than-usual number of returns, waiting until the last minute to file your return may result in a lengthier wait for your refund.

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Also, take in mind that submitting a paper return might cause delays. The quickest method to file—and get your refund—is to do it online. The following are some of the most typical reasons for delays:

1. Your tax return contains inaccurate information

Numerical or other inaccuracies on your tax return might cause your refund to be delayed. When a problem is found, your return is designated for human review, which means an IRS person must go through it to locate the fault. This might extend the processing time by days or weeks.

2. Your return is incomplete

Incomplete returns may also result in an IRS review, which may result in a lengthier wait for your refund. For example, if you submitted a paper return and forgot to input a critical piece of information, such as your Social Security number, or if you missed to sign your tax papers, the IRS will not process your return until those things are checked off.

3. You’re a victim of tax fraud

Someone utilizing your personal information to submit a fake tax return and claim a refund in your name is one sort of tax fraud. The IRS found over 450,000 bogus refund claims for the 2020 tax filing season, with over 44,000 of them linked to identity theft. If you believe you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, you may report it to the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

4. Your refund was sent to the wrong bank

Filing your return online is the quickest method to get your refund, particularly if you choose direct deposit. That implies, of course, that you entered the correct information for your bank account. Your money might be routed to someone else’s account if you transposed a digit in the routing or account number.

If your refund winds up in the bank account of someone else, you’ll have to negotiate with the bank directly to get it back. The IRS claims it cannot and will not force the bank to restore your funds.

5. You claimed certain tax credits

Tax credits lower your taxable income dollar for dollar. Certain tax credits, such as the earned income credit (EIC) and the extra child tax credit, often attract IRS investigation owing to false claims. If you claimed either credit, it might be why your refund has failed to materialize.

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6. You amended your return

A tax return amendment might potentially cause a delay. The IRS altered the requirements in 2020 to allow for the electronic submission of amended returns, however this only applies to returns filed in 2019, 2020, and 2021. If you want to make changes to an older return, you must send it. In that case, it may take up to three weeks for it to appear in the IRS system and another 16 weeks to be processed, which means you might be out of luck for many months.

If you owe certain types of debts, the IRS may have withdrawn or “offset” your tax return to pay them.

7. Your refund has been offset to pay a debt

If you owe certain obligations, such as unpaid child support, unpaid state taxes, or outstanding federal student loans, the IRS may deduct the amount owing from your return. If your return is offset, you will get a notification from the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service informing you of the reason for the offset and the agency to which the debt is owing. You have the option of disputing the debt with the organization that received your return.

COVID-19 Impact

In addition to the seven factors outlined above, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a key cause for longer processing times in 2020. Because of the pandemic’s limited manpower, taxpayers who submitted paper returns may face longer processing times.

“The IRS is experiencing delays in processing paper tax returns owing to insufficient manpower,” the IRS said in July 2020. This is causing refunds to be delayed. Taxpayers who have previously submitted a paper return should be aware that the IRS processes paper returns in the order they are received.”

The issue is still present. According to National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins’ 2020 Annual Report to Congress, filed June 30, 2021, there was a backlog of more than 35 million returns that needed manual processing at the end of the tax-filing season, as a result of “the pandemic-related evacuation order that restricted employee access to IRS facilities.”

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How Long Will it Take to Get My Tax Refund?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 90% of taxpayers who submit their returns online will get their refund within 21 days. However, a large number of refunds might be delayed beyond that, sometimes dramatically. COVID-19 has produced a considerable backlog for 2020 returns owing to inadequate manpower.

What Are the Most Common Reasons for Delay?

A tax refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons, including an incomplete return, an inaccurate return, an amended return, tax fraud, claiming tax credits, owing certain debts for which the government can take part or all of your refund, and sending your refund to the wrong bank due to an incorrect routing number.

How Do I Check My Refund Status?

The IRS’s website has a Where’s My Refund? page. Go there and provide your Social Security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), filing status, and precise refund amount to obtain an update on where your refund is in the pipeline.

The Bottom Line

The reasons listed above are some of the most common causes of a delayed refund. A refund could also be delayed if it is misplaced in the mail. Having your refund stolen from your mailbox is another possibility. A government shutdown, such as the one that occurred in January 2019, may also result in a longer wait time for your return to be processed and your refund to be issued. If the Where’s My Refund? tool isn’t offering any answers, you can turn to your local IRS office for help. The IRS may be able to track down your refund to determine what happened to it and issue a replacement if necessary.

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