Reasons Why Your Tax Refund Is Delayed

When you send in your tax returns and expect a refund, that refund usually can’t come too soon. The process of waiting can sometimes seem never-ending, and it can become extremely frustrating when the reasons behind the delay are not clear. You can sit there reviewing the process in your head ad nauseum and still not understand what the reason for the delay might be.

Well, there are actually multiple reasons why this might happen. In this article, we will cover some of the major ones. If you understand possible obstacles in advance, you should be able to prevent delays from happening in the future.

How long should a refund take?

The first thing you should ask yourself is, how long should a tax refund take to process and get out? The IRS has a lot of people to go through, of course, so nothing happens instantaneously. Fortunately, there is now an electronic filing option, and this has made a significant difference in turnaround times recently. Nonetheless, you should expect to wait up to three weeks in normal circumstances for your refund. If there is a problem, it can sometimes take months to resolve, depending on the nature of the problem and what is necessary to figure it out.

What are possible reasons for delays?

There are a number of reasons why refunds might get delayed. As mentioned above, they can cause delays for varying periods of time.

Your return is incomplete or contains incorrect information

When you file your tax return, you should be very careful to make sure that all your basic information is entered correctly. This includes the following information:

  • Your full name with no spelling mistakes
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your correct address, which should either match the previous year’s address or provide a distinct address change
  • All of the forms that go along with your return

If you receive a W-2 from your workplace, you need to be sure that it is included. If you have assets that you have conducted activity on, be sure that the corresponding documentation is enclosed, as well. Otherwise, your return might end up sitting on a stack labeled “incomplete” that only ends up getting looked at later. Always double-check your return before you send it.

You made a miscalculation

Miscalculations are very common on tax returns. This is understandable considering that the calculations can often be quite complicated. With automatic online summary capability, this has been made more streamlined. However, it can still happen that people enter incorrect numbers, put numbers into the wrong slots, etc.

Delays in filing

The April 15 deadline exists for a reason. The IRS is prepared to handle returns as of this date, and if you are late then staffing or other conditions might be different, and this can significantly delay the processing of your return.

Interestingly, filing too early can also cause delays. Some people think they should just get the process over with as quickly as possible so that it will be done with, but this can also be problematic. Particularly since the IRS has gone online, the tax processing software that the IRS uses can undergo updates in the period leading up to April, and this can cause returns that were sent too early to be sidelined.

Banking issues

If you ask for a direct deposit of your return, you naturally have to make sure that your banking information is correct. If not, the IRS won’t know what to do with it. So, as with the basic information that you enter on the return, you should double-check your banking information and be sure that it is right.

This means both getting your account number correct, making sure (if it is called for) that the account number and the routing number are put in the right places, and that your account type is listed correctly. If any one of these things are wrong, you won’t get your refund until you correct it. And, of course, if you ask for a paper check instead of a direct deposit, this could also cause delays as you will be dependent on the postal service to get it to you on time.

Using paper

Now that the e-filing system is available, you should use it. There is simply no point in dealing with a lot of clumsy paper anymore. With the e-filing system, all your information will be processed electronically, and unless there are outstanding issues you should get your refund on time.

With paper, however, you will be relying on another human to sift through all your paperwork, decipher your handwriting, and go through a lot of things that are simply unnecessary in this day and age. So do yourself a favor and file online.

Having an amended return

If you need to make changes to an existing return, then this will naturally cause delays. While you can also do this online, it could cause delays as the system has to process two different returns. If you have to amend a return, be sure to do it as carefully as possible and send it in quickly.

How can I speed up the process?

The best thing you can do to ensure that you get your return on time is to do it right the first time. This means double-checking both your personal information and your calculations very carefully and creating a checklist for yourself to make sure all necessary components are included. You should also be sure to double-check your banking information and anything else that might cause your refund to go awry. And you should definitely file online as there is simply no reason not to do so these days.

If you are confident that you’ve gone about the process correctly and yet you are still facing a delay, you can check your status online using the Track My Refund link. You can also call the IRS and talk to an agent.


The process of completing taxes can often be complicated. And getting the refund that you know you deserve is also something that frequently gets confused and ends up causing people a lot of unnecessary frustration. 

However, we should be happy that we are living in the digital age because the process of filing has gotten infinitely more streamlined than it used to be in the past. We should take advantage of this and do our part to stay on top of things. As long as we stay organized and keep track of all our personal and financial information, we should be able to get the returns we deserve when we expect them.

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