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Still haven’t received your tax refund?  Unfortunately, you’re not alone.  According to the National Taxpayer Advocate Service the IRS had a backlog of 35 million unprocessed returns as of last month.   As a result, it’s taking a lot longer than the usual 21 days for taxpayers to receive their money.  If your return has been accepted and you’re still waiting for your refund, here’s what you need to know.

What’s causing the delay?

Due to the pandemic, the IRS was forced to shut down offices for part of 2020.  During this time, they were unable to process paper returns which created a backlog.  When the tax season began this year, there were millions of 2019 tax returns still pending.  IRS had to deal with pandemic-related tax law changes and they were tasked with payment processing for stimulus checks. While IRS is now open and processing tax returns, payments and refunds, they’re still experiencing delays.

Other factors slowing down your refund

Simple mistakes or oversights can cause your return to be flagged for additional review.  Here are some things that will delay your refund.

  • Your return has errors such as the wrong Recovery Rebate Credit amount
  • You claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit using your 2019 income
  • You’re missing information
  • Your return need further review
  • Your return is suspected of fraud or identity theft
  • You filed a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation (takes 14 weeks to be processed)

Keep in mind that if the IRS needs more information to process your return, they will send you a notice via USPS mail.  They won’t call you out of the blue or send a message through email or social media. 

Best way to get information about your refund

Those still waiting can track their refund status using the IRS “Where’s My Refund?” tool.  To use the tool, you’ll need your social security number or ITIN, filing status and your refund amount.  The tracker goes through 3 stages; Return Received, Refund Approved and Refund Sent.  However, it doesn’t provide specifics about how long you’ll be waiting for your return to be processed.  You can also try calling, but it isn’t always easy to get someone on the phone.  During the season, the IRS received 167 million calls and only 9% of them were answered by a customer service representative.  The average time on hold was 20 minutes.