Hey mister, have you seen my refund?

May 06, 2019 by Jean Lee Scherkey, EA 
Top half of a clock drawn on a chalkboard with the word 'TAX' written above it.

The winter of this year’s tax filing season has given way to spring. You valiantly fought the confusion of the new Form 1040 and defeated tax law conundrums like a knight who’s defeated a zombified dragon. Patiently, you wait for your federal refund to arrive. And you wait. But, unlike the final season of Game of Thrones, your refund never comes.
If it has been at least 24 hours after you successfully submitted your individual return for efiling or four weeks since submitting your return by mail, the IRS’s online, automatic “Where’s My Refund” app is your first destination to find out the status of your refund. To access the app, log onto the IRS website and click on the “Refunds” tab toward the upper half of the page. You will need to know the primary taxpayer’s social security number, the filing status claimed on the return and the exact refund amount shown on the return. For those who filed jointly with their spouse, the primary taxpayer is the person whose name is listed first on the return. Once the information is entered, the IRS will display which processing stage your return is in. Generally, there are three stages to processing a refund: 1 - Return Received, 2 - Refund Approved, and 3 - Refund Sent. 

If it has been at least twenty-one days since you efiled your return or six weeks after submitting your federal return by mail, and the “Where’s My Refund” app indicates your return is still in one of the three process stages listed above, it’s time to grab your cell phone to reach out and touch the IRS.

  • The telephone number is 800-829-1040, and the phone lines are open Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM your local time. Residents of Alaska and Hawaii should follow Pacific time when calling.
  • In the event that the app states your refund was mailed more than a couple of weeks ago, it is possible the refund check may have been lost or stolen while in transit.
  • If you requested your refund to be direct deposited and the direct deposit date listed on the app has already passed, it is possible there was an issue with either the routing or account number. The IRS will be able to guide you through the next steps in recovering your missing refund.
  • If your return contained Form 8379 Injured Spouse, please wait eleven weeks to call the IRS about the status of your refund if you efiled and fourteen weeks if you mailed your return.
If the app shows your refund progress is still in the first two stages, it is more than likely that there is a processing issue with your return. Some of the more common reasons why a delay in processing occurs are:
  •  All the income that was reported to the IRS by employers and other payers is not reported on the return.
  • There is a discrepancy in the amount of withholding claimed on the return vs. what was reported by payers.
  • Your return contains one or more of the following credits: Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, Other Dependent Credit, and/or American Opportunity Tax Credit. 
  • You claimed the Head of Household filing status.
  • A return was already filed using at least one of the social security numbers listed on your return.
In the event that you only received a portion of your expected refund, it is possible there was a math error on your return. Generally, when there is a math error, the IRS will issue a letter of explanation. You will have an opportunity to disagree with the recalculation if you do not agree with the information in the letter. If you have a balance due on a prior year federal or state return, any current refunds will be applied to the amount due until the balance is paid in full. If you owe back child support, non-tax debts due to another federal agency, or have state tax or unemployment repayment debts; your federal refund will be used to offset these debts until they are paid in full. To discuss an offset that is not due to a prior year federal tax debt, please call the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) at 800-304-3107. Representatives are available to take your call Monday through Friday 7:30 AM to 5 PM CST.

Navigating through the tax rules to submit your return is hard enough, receiving your refund shouldn’t be. Unlike Jon Snow, you have the knowledge and tools to resolve your refund issues, hopefully with efficiency. After all, you have more important things to do like savoring the final episodes of Game of Thrones.  



Jean Lee Scherkey, EA
Learning Content Developer


Jean Lee Scherkey began her career at TaxAudit in 2015, and her current title is Learning Content Developer. She became an Enrolled Agent in 2005. For several years, Jean owned a successful tax practice that specialized in individual, California and trust taxation, and assisting those impacted by tax identity theft. With over fifteen years of varied experience in the field of taxation, Jean has worked at different private tax firms as a Staff Practitioner, Tax Analyst, and Researcher. Before coming to TaxAudit, she worked over two years for TurboTax as an “Ask the Tax Expert.” In addition to her work in TaxAudit’s Learning and Development Department, Jean is actively involved in the company’s ENGAGE Volunteer Program, which provides opportunities for employees to help and serve the local community.  


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