Reasons for Refund Delays

Some tax refunds take longer than expected. The IRS may delay refunds for several reasons, including the following:

• Errors in Direct Deposit information (refunds then sent by check);

• Financial institution refusals of Direct Deposits (refunds then sent by check) or delays in crediting the Direct Deposit to the taxpayer’s account;

• Claims of the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit require the IRS to hold the entire refund until mid-February

• Estimated tax payments differ from amount reported on tax return (for example, fourth quarter payments not yet on file when return data is transmitted);

• Bankruptcy;

• Inappropriate claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, Credit for Other Dependents’ Child Tax Credit, or American Opportunity Tax Credit; or

• Recertifications to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, Credit for Other Dependents’ or American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The IRS sends a letter or notice explaining the issue(s) and how to resolve the issue(s) to the taxpayer when it delays a refund. The letter or notice contains the contact telephone number and address for the taxpayer to use for further assistance.

The IRS offsets as much of a refund as is needed to pay overdue taxes owed by taxpayers and notifies them when this occurs. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service offsets taxpayers’ refunds through the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) to pay off past-due child support, federal agency non-tax debts such as student loans and unemployment compensation debts, and state income tax obligations. Offsets to non-tax debts occur after the IRS has certified the refunds to Fiscal Service for payment but before Fiscal Service makes the Direct Deposits or issues the paper checks. Refund offsets reduce the amount of the expected Direct Deposit or paper check but they do not delay the issuance of the remaining refund (if any) after offset. If taxpayers owe non-tax debts they may contact the agency they owe, prior to filing their returns, to determine if the agency submitted their debts for refund offset. Fiscal Service sends taxpayers offset notices if it applies any part of their refund to non-tax debts. Taxpayers should contact the agencies identified in the Fiscal Service offset notice when offsets occur if they dispute the non-tax debts or have questions about the offsets. If taxpayers need further clarification, they may call the Treasury Offset Program Call Center at (800) 304-3107. If a refund is in a joint name but only one spouse owed the debt, the “injured spouse” should file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.