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Help! My Tax Refund Is Still Missing

The Motley Fool logo The Motley Fool 14/05/2022 Maurie Backman
A concerned couple calculates their home finances together using a laptop. © Getty Images A concerned couple calculates their home finances together using a laptop.

Most people who file a tax return wind up getting a refund. And whether yours was a large one or a small one this year, chances are, you want that money pronto.

If you filed your taxes by the April 18 deadline and submitted your return electronically, that refund should've hit your bank account by now. If it didn't, there are plenty of reasons why it may be delayed, so don't panic. At the same time, it pays to start investigating if you're missing the money you should've already received. 

When your tax refund is late

First, let's get one thing out of the way. While the IRS typically issues refunds for electronically-filed tax returns within three weeks, the turnaround time for paper returns can be twice as long. And this year, you might see your refund further delayed if you filed on paper because the IRS is grappling with a major backlog of paper returns it's trying to dig out of.

But let's assume you filed your taxes electronically and did so by April 18. If you're still missing your refund, the best thing to do at this point is to use the IRS's "Where's My Refund?" tool to check up on the status of your money.

To use the tool, you'll need your:

  • Social Security number
  • Filing status
  • Exact refund amount

Once you input that information, you may get an update from the IRS that eases your mind. But if you don't, it may be time to give the agency a call at 1-800-829-1040. 

Keep in mind that IRS wait times aren't short these days, so you may end up rotting on hold for quite a bit of time. But if you're missing a sizable refund, it's worth putting in the time.

Reasons your refund could be delayed

There are plenty of reasons why the IRS may not yet have issued your refund. First, it could be that the agency needs to verify information on your tax return. If so, you should expect a letter in the mail to that effect. That's not something you need to worry about -- but you will need to respond if you want to get your money.

It may also be that when you signed up for direct deposit of your refund, you entered the wrong bank account details. If so, that's enough to cause your refund to get bounced back. And so the IRS may be working on reissuing it.

What’s more, your refund may be delayed due to a simple glitch on the part of the IRS. It can happen. And if you didn't sign up for direct deposit, your refund may have gotten lost in the mail.

Either way, there's no reason to panic if you haven't gotten your money. But if you filed your tax return on time, then it pays to start investigating. 

A lot of people are desperate for money these days, with living costs being out of control. And if you're on the verge of having to rack up credit card debt in the absence of having the cash to cover your bills, then a refund delay is something you probably can't afford. In that case, carve out some time to contact the IRS to see what's up -- even if that means having to subject yourself to a lengthy wait for a live person.

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