Why is my tax refund taking so long?

So you prepared your federal income tax return, filed it with the IRS, and now waiting for a refund, but it’s taking too long? Here is everything you need to know why it might take so long to receive it.

To better understand why your refund is taking longer than anticipated, we first need to clear out a few things.

The credits you claimed

By law, the Internal Revenue Service is required to hold tax refunds of taxpayers that claimed the additional child tax credit and earned income tax credit on their federal income tax returns. The tax season started on January 24 and taxpayers that didn’t claim these credits got their refunds less than a month or so. Those that claimed either one of them, however, needed to wait until March at the time of writing this article. 

Since the tax refunds of these taxpayers are sent after March, that means waiting for more than a month, even if you filed taxes early. Take this into consideration when asking yourself about your tax refund status. 

Filing method

File electronically, get your taxes early; file on paper, wait a little more. That’s how it always has been since the Internal Revenue Service introduced e-filing in 1986

When you prepare a paper tax return and mail it to the Internal Revenue Service, the processing time is longer compared to electronically filed returns. It had been this way always as the time it takes for a paper return to get to the IRS processing center, enter the queue, and be processed by an IRS worker is significantly longer. With electronically filed returns, the IRS sees it immediately and the return is often processed automatically. 

Although more complicated tax returns take a little longer, most electronically filed tax returns take less than three weeks.

Typical wait times chart

Filing Method and RefundTypical Wait Time
Paper + Check6 to 7 weeks
Paper + Direct Deposit5 to 6 weeks
e-File + Check4 to 5 weeks
e-File + Direct Deposit2 to 3 weeks

Check your refund status

You’ll never know about your tax refund if you never check the status of it. The Internal Revenue Service’s Where is My Refund tool works wonders. The tool gives updates about your tax return and refund. See the updates when:

  • the IRS receives your return
  • your refund is approved
  • your refund is sent via direct deposit or mail

To check the refund status, you’ll need to provide the tool with a few details. This is to ensure your identity. You’ll be asked to enter your Social Security Number, exact refund amount, and filing status.

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