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Still Waiting on Your Tax Refund? 3 Reasons It Could Be Delayed

By Maurie Backman – Updated Apr 29, 2019 at 2:38PM

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A delayed tax refund doesn't always signal trouble. Here's why you might still be missing your cash.

Each year, the majority of people who file a tax return wind up getting a refund. If that was the case for you this year, then you've probably already made plans for what you'll do with that money.

But what if your cash has yet to arrive? Does that mean there's a problem at play?

If your tax refund is late, don't panic. Some filers are quick to associate a tardy refund with a pending audit, but there may be a number of other explanations as to why your money hasn't yet hit your bank account. Here are just a few.

Man pointing at watch with annoyed expression


1. You filed on paper

The standard turnaround time for tax refunds is three weeks for returns filed electronically, and six weeks for those filed on paper. If you filed your taxes on or around the April 15 deadline, then there's a good chance you won't get your money until May at the earliest, even if you submitted your return online. And if you filed earlier in the season but did so on paper, you may have a few more weeks to go until you can expect that cash as a matter of course.

2. You made a mistake on your tax return

Making a mistake on your taxes can, in some cases, cause your return to get rejected. What the IRS will often try to do, however, is resolve your mistake or verify the information contained on your return before going that route. If that's the case, you can expect a delay in your refund until the issue at hand gets resolved.

3. You put down the wrong direct deposit info

Signing up for direct deposit is a good way to get your tax refund sooner, since you won't need to wait extra time for a physical check to arrive in the mail. But if you entered the wrong bank account number or routing number when requesting direct deposit, then you can pretty much expect it to take longer to get your money.

Following up on your refund

If you're wondering where your refund is, you can check the IRS's "Where's My Refund?" tool for more information about your missing money. To do so, you'll need a few pieces of information on hand:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your tax-filing status
  • Your expected refund amount

If you filed an electronic return, the tool should have information for you as soon as 24 hours after the fact. But if you filed a paper return, you'll need to wait more like four weeks to follow up on your refund online.

If the "Where's My Refund?" tool doesn't return enough information, you can always follow up with the IRS by phone at 800-829-1954. An agent should be able to access your file and provide you with some detail as to why your refund is being held up. Keep in mind, however, that the agency is largely understaffed, and so you may experience a long wait when attempting to contact the IRS by phone. This especially holds true in the first few weeks following the April 15 deadline. If you're missing your refund but aren't desperate for that cash, you may be better off waiting things out and following up in mid-May if your money hasn't arrived by then. Otherwise, be prepared to sit on hold for a while to get to the bottom of things.

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