Tax Refunds in 2023: What To Do If Yours Seems Late

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Mathematically speaking, it doesn’t make any sense to want a tax refund. After all, a tax refund is simply a return of taxes that you have overpaid during the year. This means that if you’re getting a tax refund, you’ve essentially given the government an interest-free loan of money that you could have been investing for yourself. That being said, there’s no denying that there can be a thrill associated with getting a refund, so if you know you’re due a refund and it is delayed, it can be frustrating. Unfortunately, with the way funding has been drying up for the IRS, delays are becoming more and more common. If you’re one of the unlucky ones with a refund that hasn’t shown up in a timely manner, here are some of the steps you can take

Read More: The IRS Has Refunded $15.7B as of Feb. 3 — Here’s How Much the Average Taxpayer Is Getting Back
See: 3 Signs You’re Serious About Raising Your Credit Score

Check Your Refund Status Online

The easiest, fastest and perhaps even most reliable way to see what’s going on with your refund is to use the online “Where’s My Refund” tool. Within 24 hours of e-filing your return — or within four weeks of when you mailed your return — you’ll be able to check the current status of your return.

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You can find the “Where’s My Refund” tool online here. You can also use the IRS2Go mobile app if you prefer. To check your refund status via either tool, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, filing status and exact refund amount.

There are three status categories on the “Where’s My Refund” tool:

  • “Received” means your return is being processed.
  • “Approved” means your refund amount has been approved and is undergoing further processing.
  • “Sent” means your refund is on its way.

Information on the “Where’s My Refund” tool is updated daily (overnight), so there’s no need to check it more than once per day.

Take Our Poll: What Do You Plan To Use Your Tax Refund For?

Call the IRS

Calling the IRS is usually an option of last resort. For starters, speaking with the IRS can be intimidating for many Americans. Whether rational or not, many taxpayers have a fear that calling attention to their tax return with the IRS is something that could end badly. But a far more realistic concern is whether or not you will actually be able to get through and speak with anyone. 

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According to the National Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report to Congress 2021, of the 282 million phone calls the IRS received during that tax year, just 11% were answered by a customer service representative. In other words, if you’re planning on calling the IRS, plan on trying multiple times or waiting on hold for a considerable amount of time.

If you do choose to go this route, you’ll need to know a few things first to save yourself some time and frustration:

  • The IRS phone number to check your refund status is 800-829-1040.
  • You’ll have to wait at least 21 days from when you e-filed your return.
  • If you mailed your return, that waiting time jumps to six weeks.

Don’t waste your time trying to reach an IRS agent any sooner than the above timelines because they won’t likely be able to help you anyway.

Reasons Why Your Refund Might Be Delayed

An underfunded IRS means that the agency’s technology is becoming outdated and its personnel ranks are stretched thin. The IRS is also still playing catch-up with its paperwork thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns. These are all valid reasons why your tax refund may be delayed. 

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However, if you aren’t getting your refund as fast as you expect, there may also be errors in your return, or it may need additional examination. In both of these cases, the IRS will contact you via U.S. mail. Remember that the IRS will never call you for information, so be especially vigilant to protect yourself from telephone scams during tax season. 

Prepare For Next Year

Although slowdowns at the IRS are out of your hands, there are some proactive steps you can take when you file your next return that can help minimize the chance that your refund will be delayed. Here are some of the most important:

File Electronically

Not only are electronically filed tax returns able to be processed faster, the IRS will flat-out reject a return you submit that has obvious errors, giving you a chance to make corrections right away. 

Look Before You Leap

Although the IRS will automatically reject your e-filed return if it has glaring errors — such as your name not matching your Social Security number — it won’t catch many other mistakes. If you neglected to include one of your Form 1099s, for example, your return may not be rejected, but it may hold up its processing. Be sure to go line by line and verify all of the information on your return before you submit it.

Choose Direct Deposit

Requesting a check for your tax refund can take more time and it opens the door to processing errors, such as an erroneous mailing address. With direct deposit, you can track your incoming refund and see it in your account in less than 21 days.

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About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.
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