In most cases, you should only get one tax refund. There are a few situations where you may get multiple refunds.
In normal situations, you should only get one federal tax refund from the IRS. If you had to file state income taxes, you should usually only get one refund per state that owes you a refund.
Refunds Held for Review
The IRS usually doesn’t issue partial refunds if it’s reviewing your tax return prior to issuing your refund. You can tell the IRS is reviewing your refund if the bars disappear on your Where’s My Refund Status page or you see TC 570 on your tax transcript.
You’ll get your entire refund once the IRS finishes its review.
For example, you claim a $1,000 refund and the IRS questions $300 of it. The IRS won’t send you $700 now. It will wait for you to respond, make a decision, and then send you your total refund amount based on its decision.
Most states work the same way. You usually won’t get a partial refund while you’re waiting for a decision on the rest of your refund.
Tax Return Changes After You Get a Refund
While the IRS or state tax authorities often check refunds before they’re issued, getting a refund doesn’t mean that your tax return won’t be reviewed later. The checks before refunds go out are usually very basic, and the tax authorities by do more thorough checks or audits at a later time.
If you got your tax refund and your tax return is changed so you owe money, you’ll need to pay back the taxes and possibly interest and penalties.
In some cases, the IRS or a state tax agency may realize that you’re entitled to a larger refund. They don’t ignore mistakes that resulted you in paying more than you needed to.
You’ll usually get a letter in the mail explaining that you’re getting a bigger refund. Your additional refund will usually come the same way as your original refund.
Tax Law Changes
Sometimes the state or federal government makes a very last minute change to the tax law. This could change what you owe and result in a larger refund.
For example, in early 2021, Congress decided that some unemployment income received during 2020 wouldn’t be subject to income taxes. Some people had already filed their tax returns and paid taxes on that income. The IRS told people not to file amended tax returns and automatically issued refunds on those tax returns.
What if I don’t recognize a second refund?
Since second refunds are unusual, you should usually receive a notice explaining why you’re getting one.
IRS refunds usually show up on your bank statement as TREAS 310 TAX REF, and state refunds usually have the state name or abbreviation. If you see the same code twice, make sure you understand why.
You don’t want to be in a situation where you received a refund by mistake and will have to pay it back after spending the money. You also want to make sure a scammer isn’t testing your bank account.
If you didn’t receive a letter about your refund, call the IRS or the state tax authority to check what it was for.