How Long Is Too Long for Your Tax Refund?

Hopefully, you not only avoided a tax bill this year, but you're due some money back. If this is the case, you've no doubt formed a plan on how you're going to spend your refund check. But what if it seems like the Treasury Department is taking too long to deliver your money?

There's a big difference between being impatient and rightfully concerned when it comes to getting a tax refund. Depending on how much money's at stake, becoming emotional may be a given. It's definitely wise to determine whether you're stressing for no reason this tax season or you have ample reason to worry.

Unreasonable Expectations

It's fair to say that given the lightning-fast methods for receiving not only information these days, but also goods and services, expectations for a fast refund can be too high. In other words, you shouldn't expect your tax refund to appear overnight. The processing time for electronically-filed returns is 21 days, while paper returns can take up to six weeks to cycle through.

However, as tax season progresses, wait times can increase. If you file electronically, the software you're using should provide you with a forecasted timeframe. Likewise, a return preparer should be able to give you a rough idea of how long you should expect to wait.

Experiencing a Delay

There's a chance that your return will take longer than the original estimate. This may be attributed to a sudden influx of returns, or it could be that the IRS is taking more time to review what you've submitted. If the date marked on your calendar comes and goes, you may want to do a little research into what may be a problem.

Where's Your Refund?

In the event that you need to inquire about your refund status, you may visit to do so. Their web page, "Where's My Refund" allows you to track your refund's whereabouts. You'll be advised to check your status only after the estimated timeframe has lapsed.

Processes and Problems

Even though the IRS will typically process your return and issue your refund within a short period of time, it's important to understand how potential problems can appear later on down the road. Depending upon when you file, for instance, your employer may or may not have submitted your income information. As such, the review and processing of your return may only be cursory; discrepancies may be discovered later, only after the IRS has received and scrutinized employer-provided info.

If you reported too little, or perhaps forgot to include earnings from a second employer, it's entirely possible that this will only be determined after you've got your refund. It's not uncommon for a debt to be assessed several months later. Unfortunately, this balance will be inflated by penalties and interest incurred from failing to meet the payment deadline.

Should the IRS send you a bill for overpayment of a refund or an assessed tax debt, you may want to consult with a licensed tax professional. Although the assessment may be correct, you should take time to confirm this – with a professional assistance, if necessary. If the balance is accurate, a tax professional can suggest affordable remedies that will prevent unwanted IRS collection efforts.

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