What Could Delay a Federal Tax Return Refund?

There are several reasons why the IRS might delay issuing your refund.

There are several reasons why the IRS might delay issuing your refund.

When you prepare your income tax return and realize that you are owed a refund, the anticipation of waiting for the money can be torturous. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that the time to process an electronically filed income tax return is approximately three weeks, and eight weeks to process a paper return. If the estimated processing time passes and you don't receive your refund, you can assume that there is a delay in processing your return.

Incorrect Calculations

The IRS states that the most common reason for delays in processing a return is because of mathematical errors. Generally, the IRS uses a computerized system to verify tax returns received electronically. If you incorrectly calculated your income, deductions, credits or tax, the IRS must process your return by hand, which can delay processing.

Incorrect Personal Information

The IRS and the Social Security Administration collaborate to ensure your name and social security number match. Any mistakes in your personal information on your return will delay processing times. If you were recently married and changed your name, you must also change the name on your social security card immediately to prevent a delay in your return.

Government Debts

Failure to pay government debts, such as unpaid child support, back taxes and student loans, will cause the IRS to delay issuing your refund. When you don't pay your government debts, the agency notifies the IRS and requests a seizure of your refund. The IRS will in turn reduce your refund to cover the debt and pay the requested amount to the agency. If your refund exceeds the debt, the IRS will distribute the remainder of your refund. This process can take several weeks, which will cause a delay in your refund.

Missing Forms

When you claim certain credits and deductions, the IRS requires you to complete a corresponding form or schedule, which you must attach to your return. If you omit this form, the IRS will delay processing your return. Generally, you will receive a letter or phone call requesting the form. The sooner you submit the form to the IRS, the faster you will receive your refund. Always double check your return and ensure all the required paperwork is attached before submitting to the IRS.

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About the Author

Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.

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