Here’s how long tax refunds take and what you can do to solve common tax refund delays.
When should you file your tax return?
To get your tax refund faster, file your income tax return as soon as possible.
Most tax preparation software becomes available in early to mid-January.
The Internal Revenue Service accepts tax returns starting in mid to late January.
How long does it take to get a tax refund?
The IRS says it issues 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days from when you file.
You don’t need to wait until after April 15th. For example, if you file on February 1st, you can usually expect to see your tax refund by February 22nd.
The IRS refund timeline changes if you claim certain refundable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit.
- Federal tax law requires the IRS to not issue these refunds before February 15th.
- This is due to the amount of fraud related to these credits. The additional time allows the IRS to receive and process tax forms from third parties like your W-2 from your employer.
- You can still file before February 15th so you’re first in line to get your refund once these refunds start going out.
- Your entire refund will get held if this rule applies to you. You won’t get part of your refund early and then your credit later. You’ll get a single refund after February 15th.
What day are tax refunds deposited?
There is no specific day the IRS deposits tax refunds. Your refund could arrive on any banking day.
How should you file?
File your tax return electronically whenever possible. The IRS automatically processes electronic returns. You can get your refund in your bank account in just a few weeks.
Paper returns have a longer processing time in normal times. That’s because the IRS enters them by hand.
Add several additional weeks for processing for paper returns. It also takes time for your paper return to go through the mail.
How should you request your refund?
The fastest way to get your tax refund is via direct deposit.
The IRS has faster processing for direct deposits versus checks. In addition, you don’t need to wait for the check in the mail and then go to the bank to deposit your check.
Can you get your tax refund before you file?
You may be in a situation where you substantially overpaid your taxes and want to get your money sooner. For example, you paid estimated taxes but your income was lower than you estimated.
You can’t get your tax refund without filing. You will need to wait until at least January to be able to file your tax return so that you can get your tax refund.
What if you’re waiting on tax forms?
You don’t necessarily need to wait for tax forms to file your tax return if you know the numbers. For example, you’re waiting to get a 1099-NEC that you know is for $10,000. You can just enter the $10,000 on your tax return.
There is a small chance that filing before you get your tax forms will get you audited by the IRS.
For example, they may not match the information you entered on the form. This could be because you used a slightly different payor name or tax identification number.
However, as long as your income and expenses are correct, you can clear this up with a simple written explanation showing why you paid the correct amount of tax.
How can you track the status of your income tax refund?
The best way to track the status of your tax refund is by using the IRS Where’s My Refund tool. You’ll need your individual taxpayer identification number and information from the first page of your tax return.
Where’s My Refund tells you:
- If the IRS has your tax return
- If the IRS has approved your tax return as filed
- When you should expect your refund
Remember that electronic tax returns can take up to a week to show up and paper returns can take up to four to six weeks to show up. If it’s been that long and you’re not in the system at all, call the IRS.
IRS phone and office representatives can only research the status of your refund if you’re in one of the following situations.
- It has been more than 21 days since you filed electronically
- It has been more than six weeks since you filed by mail
- The Where’s My Refund tool says to contact the IRS
The IRS will contact you by mail if it needs more information to process your refund. They will never contact you by email. They will only contact you by phone if you’ve already spoken to them.
Finding additional information…
If you check your refund status and see that it’s delayed, the first thing you should do is go to the IRS website and click Get Your Tax Record. You want to request a tax transcript for the current tax year.
Your tax transcript shows additional information such as whether the IRS pulled your tax return for an audit, whether it’s still processing, and whether they’ve sent a notice.
If you don’t understand the explanations on your tax transcript, see IRS Transcript Codes to learn what the different numbers mean.
How can you check for your state refund?
Many states have similar tools to the IRS. Search for “Where’s my refund [your state]” or “refund status [your state].”
Note: Your state tax refund status doesn’t affect your IRS tax refund status.
What do the Where’s My Refund status messages mean?
If you’re using the IRS Where’s My Refund tool to check your refund after you filed your tax return, you may see the following messages.
Return Received. Tax Topic 152 Refund Info
If you filed electronically, you should see Return Received or Tax Topic 152 within a few days. It means the IRS got your tax return from your tax preparation company. They will do a few checks before approving your refund.
The message on the page means what it says.
We have received your tax return, and it is being processed. If you filed a complete and accurate tax return, your refund should be issued within 21 days of the received date. However, processing may take longer under certain circumstances. Please check here or visit the Refunds page on IRS.gov to check your refund status. Please read the following information related to your tax situation: Tax Topic 152, Refund Information.
Other than the fact that you may not be getting your tax refund as quickly as you may have wanted, Tax Topic 152 is neither good nor bad. The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t even know if there’s a problem yet.
Having Tax Topic 152 for 3 months or longer is unfortunately common recently. The IRS is having many problems processing things and not answering the phone when people call to check.
Code 152 doesn’t have a special meaning. The IRS just likes to assign numbers to everything.
Tax Code 570 and Tax Code 971
- These tax codes are not on your Where’s My Refund page. You can only see them if you check your tax transcript.
- Tax code 570 means the IRS is reviewing your tax return before sending your refund. They may or may not change it.
- Tax code 971 means the IRS is still holding your tax return. They are sending you a notice to request more information or to propose changes.
Most people get this message next. Your tax return passed the initial IRS checks, and you’ll get your refund by the listed date. If you don’t get your refund, check with your bank first, then call the IRS.
Refund Status Results (Your tax return is still being processed.)
If you’re unlucky, you’ll see that the status bars disappeared from Where’s My Refund. Instead of progress bars, you’ll see a message that says “Refund Status Results. Your tax return is still being processed. A refund date will be provided when available.”
You may also see, “Your refund of tax withheld may require further review and could take longer.”
The status bars disappearing from the IRS website means you’re in for a longer wait. The IRS is verifying something on your tax return.
It could take a few days, a few weeks, or even longer.
What can I do if I got the Refund Status Results message?
If your tax return is still being processed, there’s nothing you can do but wait.
Often, everything will check out, and the IRS will finally approve your refund. You’ll wake up one morning to “refund approved” or a direct deposit in your bank account.
In some cases, you may get a letter from the IRS asking for more information or telling you they already adjusted your refund. You’ll need to respond according to the instructions in that letter.
Common letters include:
- IRS Letter 12C requests more information and you have to respond to get your refund.
- IRS Notice CP12 tells you the IRS changed your refund and you’ll get it in 4-6 weeks. You usually don’t need to respond unless you disagree with the changes.
- IRS Notice CP49 tells you the IRS used your refund to pay other taxes that you owe — usually from a previous year.
When you get a letter in the mail, the IRS will tell you what information they want and what phone number you can call. Remember that even if they already made changes without asking you, you have the right to appeal.
You should usually wait until the letter arrives to call the IRS because it also takes a few days for the IRS computers to update. If you call too soon, the IRS representative may not be able to assist you.
If it’s been more than two to three weeks and you haven’t gotten anything in the mail, you can call the IRS to request another copy of the notice they sent.
Why is my tax refund taking longer than 21 days?
The IRS says that it processes most tax refunds within 21 days if you file electronically. If your refund is taking longer, here are some of the reasons why.
Tax Return Incomplete or Contains Errors
If your tax return is incomplete or has errors, the IRS will need to manually review it. Review times vary based on how busy the IRS is.
In some cases, such as simple math errors, the IRS might change your tax return and issue your corrected refund amount. In other cases, the IRS might send you a notice or error asking for additional information before they process your refund.
Identity Theft or Fraud Reports
If you’ve reported identity theft or fraud, the IRS may take longer to process your tax return. This is so they can check that the request for a refund actually came from you.
The IRS may also hold tax returns for potential fraud on their own. For example, if you had significant changes in your tax situation from last year that match patterns fraudsters use, the IRS might hold your refund until they get more information.
Certain Tax Credits Have Mandatory Holds
Refundable tax credits have high instances of fraudulent claims. If your tax return contains these credits, the law says the IRS can’t process your tax return until at least mid-February. This gives the IRS time to collect additional information to check your claim for a refund.
Tax credits that could be subject to delays include the
- Child Tax Credit
- Additional Child Tax Credit
- Earned Income Tax Credit
Injured Spouse Allocation
If you filed Form 8379 Injured Spouse Allocation, you may be in for a long wait to resolve your injured spouse claim. The IRS says it takes up to 14 weeks to process tax refunds when you’ve filed Form 8379.
2020 Tax Returns
The IRS is still processing some 2020 tax returns even in 2022. These are mostly paper returns that weren’t filed on time or that had issues. The IRS says it still has a backlog due to COVID-19 and is processing these returns as quickly as possible.
If you need your 2020 AGI to file your 2021 tax return, the IRS says to enter $0 if your 2020 tax return hasn’t been processed.
Tax Refund Problems
Refund Issued But Not Received
If the IRS says they sent your refund but you don’t have it, it may be on the way.
A direct deposit can take at least 2-3 business days. A check might take 2-3 weeks to arrive.
One other possibility is you may get IRS Notice CP49. Notice CP49 means the IRS used your refund to pay taxes you owed from a previous year.
If you’ve been waiting longer than the above timelines and haven’t gotten anything in the mail, it’s time to call the IRS.
Tax Refund Sent to Closed Bank Account
Once you file your tax return, there’s usually no way to change your bank account for your tax refund.
The IRS will send your refund to the bank account you listed on your tax return. Most banks will reject the refund, and the IRS will then mail you a check.
Some banks reopen accounts that receive deposits, and you’ll have to deal with that bank to withdraw the funds.
To avoid problems with your refund, it’s usually best to avoid closing your bank account until after you get your refund. If you had fraud on your account, ask your bank if there is a way to still receive deposits while blocking other transactions.
Tax Refund Lower Than Expected
If your refund is lower than expected, check your mail for IRS notices explaining why. If you received a direct deposit refund, your notice could take a few days to arrive.
If you still don’t know why the IRS reduced your refund, call them.
*It’s common to see TAX REFUND PROC, RFND DISB on your bank statement. That stands for Tax Refund Processed, Refund Disbursed.
You usually won’t get a second refund with any remaining amount you were expecting. Again, you should receive an IRS notice explaining why your refund was reduced within a few days.
Wrong Name on Tax Return Check
Your refund check should match the name on your tax return. If you receive a refund check with the wrong name, don’t cash it. Your bank will likely bounce it.
Call the IRS to notify them of the incorrect check and to request a replacement.
Bank Rejected Tax Refund
If your bank rejected your tax refund, the IRS will usually issue you a check. It will usually take a few weeks for the payment to bounce back to the IRS and for the IRS to put you in line to get a check. (When they’re sending millions of checks, it takes time to get through them all.)
You’ll have to contact your bank to determine why they rejected the refund. Common problems include your name on your tax return not exactly matching your bank account or giving the IRS a wrong account number.
The IRS Won’t Answer the Phone
If the IRS asks you to call or you’re trying to get a status update, there’s a good chance they won’t even answer the phone. They get overloaded every tax season and you’re lucky if you can even get through to wait an hour or two on hold.
There are a few additional steps you can try when the IRS won’t pick up the phone.
Can you request to get your tax refund faster?
The IRS does not have a way to get your refund faster due to hardship or other reasons. The IRS processes refunds in the order it receives tax returns subject to the possible delays discussed above.
Can calling the IRS speed up your tax refund?
Calling the IRS usually won’t speed up your tax refund. They handle all tax returns in order and contact you if something’s wrong.
Until the IRS contacts you, there’s generally nothing you can do. For example, you typically can’t call them and say you need your tax refund to pay your bills to get it sooner.
In some cases, you may have missed a letter or notice from the IRS asking you for more information or saying that they’re adjusting your refund. If it’s been longer than the time listed on your Where’s My Refund status page or in a previous letter you got from the IRS, you can call the IRS for an update.
Can I do anything to get my tax refund faster?
One thing you may want to do to possibly get your tax refund faster is to check your online tax transcript in your IRS account. Your IRS account lets you see your W-2s, 1099s, and other tax forms as well as the tax withheld.
If you notice anything that’s missing or inaccurate, that could be why the IRS flagged your income tax return. You can contact your employer or whoever issued the tax form to ask them to correct it.
Keep in mind that getting a W-2 or 1099 doesn’t mean the IRS has it. It’s possible the issuer forgot to file with the IRS or left yours out by mistake.
Can I change my refund payment information?
If you’ve been waiting for your refund for a long time, you might want to change your payment information from how you entered it on your tax return. For example, you might want to do direct deposit instead of a refund check or you might have moved to a new financial institution.
There’s usually no way to change where your refund goes. If you requested a direct deposit to a bank account that you closed since filing your tax return, the IRS will try to send it to that account and then mail you a check after it bounces.
If you’ve moved, make sure you set up mail forwarding with the post office and change your address with the IRS.