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Several Reasons Why Some Electronically-Filed Tax Refunds Take Longer Than 21 Days

Several Reasons Why Some Electronically-Filed Tax Refunds Take Longer Than 21 Days
Ines Zemelman, EA
07 April 2022

Even though most taxpayers who filed online and selected direct deposit receive their refunds in less than 21 days, some refunds may take much longer. The timing of a refund after the IRS receives a return might be affected by a variety of reasons. 

This includes:
  • When a return contains errors, is incomplete, or has been tainted by identity theft or fraud, a manual review may be required

  • Other returns may take longer to process, such as those requiring a revision to the Child Tax Credit or Recovery Rebate Credit amount, those containing a claim for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit, or those containing a Form 8379, which may take up to 14 weeks to process.
  • Filing a tax return electronically and selecting direct deposit is the quickest way to receive a refund. Taxpayers who do not have a bank account can use the National Credit Union Locator Tool to learn how to get one at an FDIC-insured bank.

The IRS warns people against counting on a refund by a specific date, especially when making large purchases or paying bills. Some returns may need to be reviewed again, which will take longer. Remember to include in the time it takes a financial institution to post a refund to a customer's account or receive it by mail.

The Where's My Refund? feature on can be used to view the status of a refund. After the IRS certifies receipt of a taxpayer's e-filed return, information for the most recent tax year is typically available within 24 hours. Taxpayers who filed a paper return should wait four weeks before verifying the status.

When extra information is needed to process a return, the IRS will contact taxpayers by letter. IRS phone and walk-in representatives can only research the status of a refund if it has been:

  • 21 days or more since it was filed electronically (or since the IRS filing season start date – whichever is later),
  • Six weeks or more since a return was mailed, or when
  • Where's My Refund? tells the taxpayer to contact the IRS

2020 Tax Returns

Are you awaiting the processing of your 2020 tax return? Please see Estimated Refund release date 2021. People who haven't yet had their 2020 tax returns completed should still file their 2021 tax returns by April 18th, 2022 or request an extension. Those filing electronically in this category will need their most recent tax return's adjusted gross income, or AGI. If you're waiting for your 2020 tax return to be processed, make sure to input $0 (zero dollars) on your 2021 tax return for last year's AGI.

Taxpayers must also sign and authenticate the electronic tax return by using their prior-year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or prior-year Self-Select PIN when self-preparing a tax return and submitting electronically (SSP). Those who filed their tax returns electronically last year may have created a five-digit Self-Select PIN to use as an electronic signature. Returning customers' data is usually automatically entered by tax software. This information may need to be entered by taxpayers who are utilizing a software program for the first time.

If their 2020 return has not been processed or they used the Non-Filers feature in 2021 to register for an advance Child Tax Credit payment or third Economic Impact Payment in 2021, taxpayers should review the special instructions to authenticate an electronically submitted 2021 tax return.

Ines Zemelman, EA
Founder of TFX