Why thousands of IRS tax refunds are late

The IRS says you should receive your refund in 21 days, unless there's a problem. 

Kaitlyn Armstead just wants her tax refund.

She filed her taxes as soon as she could in January, and has now been waiting months, for more than $1,500 that the IRS owes her.

“It was accepted on Jan. 27 and ever since then there has been no update,” she said.

Armstead says she would look at her bank account every day, then get on her phone, and check the IRS’s Where’s my Refund site.

But for weeks and weeks and weeks, nothing has changed.

“It says we’ve received your tax return, and it’s being processed. It has said that since Jan. 27,” she said.

How long is a normal wait?

The IRS says you should receive your refund in 21 days, unless there’s a problem.

“They say 21 days most of the time, but this is way past that, so it’s a little frustrating,” Armstead said.

No one could tell her anything when she called.

So we contacted IRS headquarters, where spokeswoman Sarah Allen said she could not discuss Armstead’s case with us, but said they would look into it.

She explained refunds can be delayed if:

  • They are missing a form.
  • You made an error.
  • You owe the government money.
  • You are a suspected victim of taxpayer ID theft, where someone has already filed under your Social Security number.

To check your refund, go to Where’s My Refund on the IRS page or app.

No luck? Contact the Taxpayer Advocate, where you can speak with a live person at the IRS.

Finally, after looking into her case, an IRS representative informed Armstead they were missing a W-2 form from her employer.

So she will have to wait a few more weeks, which she says is fine, except that, “if the tables were turned and I owed them money, they’d be on my case about it!”

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