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How to Find a Missing Tax Refund

Your tax refund is missing. What do you do?

First, check the IRS’ “Where's My Refund” online tool to make sure that your tax refund has been issued. You can start checking the status of your account within 24 hours after the IRS receives your e-filed return or 4 weeks after you mail a paper return.

Tax Refund Delays

Keep in mind, there are instances where it can take longer for the IRS to process your tax return. For example, paper tax forms cannot be processed as quickly as electronically filed tax forms. Additionally, if you have a complicated tax situation, it may take more time for the IRS to verify the information on your return.

Your tax refund timeline is also affected by how you choose to collect your money. If you choose the Direct Deposit option, you will receive your refund faster than if you request a paper check by mail. (If your tax refund is being sent by Direct Deposit, you should allow several business days before it shows up in your bank account.)

Has it been a long time since the IRS said your refund was issued? There are several things that could have gone wrong. It could be that your check was lost in the mail or there was an issue with the Direct Deposit.

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Tax Refunds By Paper Check

If you are getting your refund as a paper check and you have either not received it or you lost it, the IRS can help you track it down. Call the IRS customer service line and request a trace on your tax refund. Assuming the check has not been cashed, you can have the IRS cancel the old check and send you a new one.

To initiate a tax refund trace, call the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954. Note that married joint filers will have to request the trace on paper by filing Form 3911.

If somebody else cashed your refund check, you will need to file a claim with the Bureau of the Fiscal Service. They will review your case and determine whether you should be issued another check. On average, this type of investigation takes about 6 weeks. If you signed the missing check, you likely won’t be able to receive a duplicate refund, even if somebody else cashed your check.

Tax Refunds By Direct Deposit

Are you still waiting for your refund to be deposited into your bank account? The first thing you should do is verify that you entered the correct information for your bank routing number and account number. If you gave the IRS incorrect numbers, you should call them immediately. (The IRS Tax Help Line for Individuals is 800-829-1040.) If the IRS hasn’t deposited your funds yet, they may be able to cancel the Direct Deposit and mail you a paper refund check instead.

If the IRS has already attempted Direct Deposit, then it’s possible that your bank rejected the deposit because of mismatching information (e.g., the wrong name was on the account). In that case, you will be sent a paper refund check by default. You can contact the IRS by telephone to verify that your check is in the mail.

If the IRS deposited your money into the wrong account (even though you gave them the right account numbers), you can work with the IRS directly to resolve the issue. Call the IRS and have them initiate an investigation. (The IRS Refund Hotline is 800-829-1954.) If the IRS determines that a mistake was made on their behalf, they will withdraw the money from the mistaken account and turn it over to you. The downside is that the IRS will usually send a paper refund check in this instance, and it can take up to 6 weeks for you to receive it.

RELATED: Federal Tax Payment Options


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