Why your tax refund from the IRS is taking so long — and how to track your money – CNET

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Use the IRS Where’s My Refund tool to find out if your money is delayed.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Refunds are taking longer for the IRS to process this year, with some taxpayers waiting up to eight weeks to see their money. The delays in processing are due to several reasons, including the manual processing of millions of returns. The IRS is also occupied sending out weekly batches of stimulus payments and recalculating taxes paid on unemployment benefits.

The good news? You can check on the status of your tax refund online. With two IRS tools, you can verify if there’s an issue with your refund or see if it’s on its way. (You could also call the IRS for help, but the agency warns that phone assistance is “extremely limited.”) We’ll tell you how to go about tracking your money, and also tell you what it means if you’ve received a direct deposit from the IRS labeled “310.” 

There are also ways to track your third stimulus check if that’s missing. Or you might want to check if the government has back wages you need to claim. If you have children, here’s how to calculate how much money you might get through the expanded child tax credits this year. We continue to update this story. 

What is causing tax refund delays this year?

Because of the pandemic, the IRS ran at limited capacity in 2020, which put a strain on its ability to process tax returns and send out stimulus checks. The IRS is open again and processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence, the agency said, but the pandemic continues to cause delays in some services.

The IRS said it’s issuing most refunds in less than 21 days right now but some are taking longer, including for mailed paper tax returns. The IRS said it’s also taking longer than 21 days to issue refunds for some 2020 tax returns that require review, such as determining recovery rebate credit amounts for the first and second stimulus checks or figuring earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit amounts.

Here’s a list of reasons your refund might be delayed: 

  • Your tax return has errors.
  • It’s incomplete.
  • Your refund has been affected by identity theft or fraud.
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • Your return needs further review.
  • Your return includes Form 8379 (PDF), injured spouse allocation — this could take 14 weeks to process.

How to check the status of your tax refund online

To check the status of your income tax refund using the IRS trackers, you need several things on hand: Your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — single, married or head of household — and your refund amount in whole dollars, which you can find on your tax return. Also, make sure it’s been at least 24 hours before you try tracking your refund.

Using the IRS tool Where’s My Refund, enter your SSN or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Submit. If you entered your information correctly, you’ll be taken to a page that shows your refund status. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, you’ll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with whether you filed electronically or on paper.

The IRS also has a mobile app, called IRS2Go, that checks your tax refund status. The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight, so if you don’t see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the following day.


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What these messages about your tax refund mean

Both the IRS tools (online and mobile app) will show you one of three messages to explain your tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if you’re owed one.
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank via direct deposit or as a paper check to your mailbox. (Here’s how to change the address on file if you moved.)

Why you might get an IRS ‘310’ direct deposit

If you receive your tax refund as a direct deposit, you may see “IRS TREAS 310” for the transaction. The number “310” identifies the transaction as an IRS tax refund. If you see “449” instead, it means your refund has been offset for delinquent debt. You may also see “TAX REF” in a description field for a refund.

Expected wait times for tax refunds

The IRS usually issues tax refunds within three weeks, and many people get their refunds much sooner. However, due to the complications mentioned above, some taxpayers are waiting over a month to receive their payments. 

If there are any errors, it might take the agency longer to process and issue your tax refund. The same goes for people who filed a claim for an earned income tax credit or the child tax credit. (Here’s who qualifies for the child tax credit.)

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. For example, with refunds going into your bank account via direct deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post the money to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you may be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. 

If you submitted your tax return by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks for your tax refund to arrive. That’s where tracking your refund comes in handy. Here are some possible dates when you could receive your refund if you filed or plan to file electronically.

When your tax refund could arrive, if no additional delay

If you file or filed on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
May 17 (last day to file) May 24 June 7
Oct. 15 (last day with extension) Oct. 22 Nov. 5

Whether to call the IRS with questions about your refund

While you can call the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited right now, so you may wait on hold for a while to speak to a representative. Also, the IRS says you should only call if it’s been 21 days or more since you filed your taxes online, or if the Where’s My Refund tool tells you to contact the IRS. Here’s the number to call: 800-829-1040.

For more information about your 2020 taxes, here’s how to claim missing stimulus money on your taxes and everything to know about the third stimulus check.

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