Tax Return Delays Explained (5 Reasons You Might Be Having To Wait)

Sep 13, 2023 | Small Business

Dealing with tax return delays in 2023 feels like making a phone call, being put on neverending hold, and completely forgotten about.

Soothing automated voice: “Your tax return is very important to us. Please continue to hold for the next available IRS agent.”

[insert elevator music]

[music stops…you think you’re next]

“Your tax return is very important to us. Please continue to hold for the next available IRS agent.”

[insert elevator music drowned out by frustrated screaming]

You start to wonder if there are any actual people there. 

We wrote about this in a previous post titled 2023 Tax Refund Delays (What You Need To Know If You’re Still Waiting) but wanted to offer a little more help in case you find yourself in the situation of waiting on a refund.

my refund is delayed

Tax Return Delays

According to CBS News, 7 in 10 tax filers this year will be getting some kind of refund. However, the IRS reports that they “continue to experience delays” but are “working hard to get through the inventory.”

In other words, even though they have added more than 5,000 new employees (many of them customer service agents tasked with simply answering calls), the IRS has more returns than they can process and it’s taking longer than usual to get through them all. 

Tax Refund Time Frame and IRS Paper Return Delays

The IRS is quick to point out that most 2023 tax filers should expect to receive a refund (if they will be getting one) within 21 days of whenever their return is received. However, that only applies to people who filed electronically (which 97% did).

The 21-day estimate does not apply to individuals or businesses who filed a paper return. For those, the IRS says it could take up to 6 months to completely process their returns and issue any refunds due. 

Part of the money that the IRS received from the recent “Inflation Reduction Act” went towards upgrading their processing software and equipment. That has significantly helped speed up electronic returns. But it simply takes more time for a human being to physically handle paper returns which keeps those agents from being able to process other returns or assist with other issues.

Reasons Why Your Tax Refund is Delayed

A tax return could be delayed for many reasons. Most of them are simple mistakes that can end up causing more significant problems. Here are a few that could explain why you might not have gotten your refund yet.

1. Your return is incomplete.

If you skip a section, forget to enter a piece of information like a Social Security Number or dollar amount in the right place, or don’t send in a secondary form like a Schedule C or W-2 the IRS will need to take time to a) figure out the issue and b) contact you to resolve it. Both of which take time.

2. Your math is incorrect.

Even though the U.S. Tax Code is incredibly complicated, tax returns themselves don’t involve difficult math equations. However, sometimes even the simplest addition and subtraction errors can cause problems. Because the 1040 Form is designed to use calculations from one section to feed into another, a basic mistake in one area can result in incorrect totals later.

This is one area where using dedicated tax software makes a big difference. It is constantly checking your math in the background and will alert you to any inconsistencies. If you are still using paper forms, making sure that you double and triple-check your math is essential before you send your return to the IRS. If they have to fix an error, no matter how small, it will take up valuable time for both you and the agent involved.

3. Your identity can’t be easily verified.

The IRS uses individuals’ Social Security Numbers (SSNs) to verify that we are who we say we are and that the return being filed is associated with the correct person. If even one of the 9 digits in your SSN is entered incorrectly, it will cause the IRS’ identification software to send back an error. The SSN submitted with your return must match the one they have for you in their database in order for your return to be processed.

The same is true for a spouse or any dependents you list on your return as well. If any of their SSNs are incorrect it will delay your return while the IRS corrects the problem.

4. Your return was filed at the wrong time.

We all know that filing late is a big no-no. The IRS has plenty of penalties in place to discourage people from doing that. Filing at the last minute also has obvious consequences (your return could be caught in the rush of other last-minute filers and delayed).

But did you know that filing too early can cause problems too? Many people in a rush to get an anticipated return will be some of the first to file. They have their forms in order, everything is accurate, and they think they’re doing all the right things.

Then the IRS makes a last-minute change to a regulation or has to fix a software glitch that causes returns to be held up. Plan to file early electronically to ensure the smoothest return process, but maybe wait 2 or 3 weeks after the IRS opens up the filing season to allow any unforeseen difficulties to be worked out.

5. Your deposit information is wrong.

You can do everything right (have all your documents in order, file early…but not too early, file electronically, etc.) and still wind up having to wait longer than normal for your return. All because of a simple mistake with your banking information.

If you choose to have your return sent to you via direct deposit (the fastest option for sure), make extra sure that the bank routing and account number you provide are correct. If not, when the IRS attempts to send you your money it won’t go through and they’ll have to spend time figuring out why. Usually, if they can’t resolve the problem quickly, they’ll issue a paper check…a process that can take weeks or even months.

are tax refunds delayed this year

Tax Return Questions? Call Us.

Even though the IRS has a page on its site about what to expect for refunds this year, (and You can check the status of your refund at a page they set up called “Where’s My Refund?”) getting the answers you’re looking for can often be a major headache, not to mention the amount of time you’ll spend trying to find them.

If you’ve still got questions about your tax return or refund, schedule a call with one of our tax pros today. We know how important this is to you, and we’ve got what it takes to get you taken care of.

Schedule a Call

Related Posts

keep up with receipts

Avoid These 9 Common (and Costly) Accounting Mistakes

Download your copy of the free guide to find out how by filling out the form below.

You have Successfully Subscribed!