Tax Refund Delays: Reasons Why Your IRS Money Hasn't Arrived Yet

Filing your tax return electronically with direct deposit is the best way to get a quick tax refund. The IRS contends that those taxpayers who do will receive their refunds in about 21 days. 

If you've filed your return, and it's been longer than three weeks with no refund, there could be a problem or you may have included a form in your return that requires extra processing.

In a March 23 bulletin, the IRS noted that some tax refunds can take a bit longer than the expected 21-day period and also warned taxpayers "not to rely on receiving a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills." 

You should also be aware that it can take the bank several days to process the IRS deposit before it becomes available. Online payment services like Venmo and Cash App skip processing delays and provide your money two days earlier.

Here are nine of the most common reasons IRS money is delayed this year. For more, find the best free tax software, see how to track your refund to your bank account or your mailbox, and learn how to create an online IRS account.

When you file your tax return, it's important to cross-check any information you've included to make sure it's accurate. 

For instance, don't mix up the numbers of state taxes withheld with federal taxes withheld. Before you submit your taxes to the IRS, simply take a second look to fix any potential errors and make sure you've filled out each field.

Also, if you received child tax credit payments last year, make sure the amount on Letter 6419 matches the amount you received. If an incorrect amount is entered, the IRS will need to further review your tax return, which the agency says will result in an "extensive delay."

Note that if there's a problem that needs to be fixed after you submit your return, the IRS will first try to proceed without contacting you. That means it could be days or weeks before you know there's a problem.

If you owe back taxes to the IRS, the agency may take some or all of your tax refund to pay off that debt. If your refund contains more money than you owe, you'll receive the remaining balance via direct deposit or check in the mail, but it could be delayed. 

Taxpayers whose refunds are used by the IRS to cover existing payment obligations should receive a CP49 notice in the mail. 

Even if you don't owe the IRS money, the agency can keep your tax refund money if you have other debts to state or federal agencies. 

The Treasury Offset Program enables the IRS to take all or part of your tax refund to pay obligations such as child support, state taxes or unemployment compensation repayments. Such debts could delay the arrival of your remaining tax refund or eliminate it completely.

Have you changed bank accounts since you last filed your taxes? If so, pay close attention to what the direct deposit information says when submitting your return this year. 

If you accidentally forget to update it with your new direct deposit details, your refund will be sent back to the IRS. This will likely result in a paper check being mailed to your house, which could take several weeks longer to arrive.

This year, the IRS is encouraging taxpayers to file electronically and set up direct deposit to get their refunds back more quickly. With mail delays, it could take a while for the IRS to receive your return in the mail and even longer to issue a paper check. 

Filing your return online instead of through the mail is more important than ever this year to avoid refund delays, the IRS says. Instead of a paper tax return, use one of these free online tax filing services so you don't have to wait to receive your money.

In 2021, most Americans received a third stimulus check payment related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While that money is non-taxable, it needs to be reconciled on your tax return if you are claiming the recovery rebate credit.

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