Causes for Delays in Refunds from the IRS

In a typical tax year, the following conditions may delay the refund and/or change the refund amount.

  • Taxpayer claims certain credits covered under the PATH Act of 2015. See Refund Delays for Those Claiming EITC and ACTC.
  • Taxpayer owes back taxes, either individual or business (refund offset).
  • Taxpayer owes delinquent child support (refund offset).
  • Taxpayer has certain delinquent federal debts, such as student loans, etc. (refund offset).
  • The last name and social security number of the primary taxpayer must be the same as on last year's return or the return will be delayed at least one week for re-matching. (Use the name as it appears on the mailing label of the tax package.)
  • Estimated Tax payments reported on the return don't match the Estimated Tax payments recorded on the IRS Master File. This generally occurs when:
    • The spouse made separate Estimated Tax payments and filed a joint return, or vice versa; or
    • The return was filed before the last Estimated Tax payment was credited to the account.
  • The taxpayer has a Schedule E Supplemental Income and Loss claiming a deduction for a questionable tax shelter.
  • The taxpayer is claiming a blatantly unallowable deduction.
  • The taxpayer is considered to be a first-time filer. A first-time filer is defined as a taxpayer who has not filed a tax return as a primary or secondary taxpayer during the previous ten years.
  • Form 8379 Injured Spouse Allocation is attached. According to the instructions for Form 8379, it will take the IRS approximately 14 weeks (11 weeks if filing electronically) to process the form.

Per the IRS Operations During COVID-19: Mission-critical functions continue webpage:

We're open and processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence. However, COVID-19 continues to cause delays in some of our services. Our service delays include:

  • Live phone support
  • Processing tax returns filed on paper
  • Answering mail from taxpayers
  • Reviewing tax returns, even for returns filed electronically

Check this page periodically for updates.

Related Links

Note that any link in the information above is updated each year automatically and will take you to the most recent version of the webpage or document at the time it is accessed.