What Causes Delays in the IRS' Approval of Electronic Tax Returns?

by Leigh Thompson

The IRS routinely rejects tax returns that contain inaccurate or omitted information.

Every spring, young couples gather their tax documents to file taxes and get that coveted refund check. The IRS issues tax refunds based on a tentative schedule they release in early January. Simply filing your tax return according to their schedule does not mean you get your refund exactly on time. Several factors influence how long it takes the IRS to approve your electronic tax return and issue your refund.

The IRS rejects returns that contain typos, omitted information or mismatch errors. Simply entering your Social Security number incorrectly results in a denial of your tax return. Rejected returns cause a delay in the IRS approval process. Mismatch errors occur when you enter information into your tax return that does not match information the IRS already has from the Social Security Administration such as dates of birth, Social Security numbers and names. You also cannot claim a person or dependent if that person is already claimed on another tax return. Rejected tax returns generate an error code alerting you to what information was denied. Quickly fix any errors and resubmit to get your refund.

As part of the IRS' fraud protection, tax returns undergo critical reviews to make sure there are no erroneous or fraudulent tax refunds issued. The IRS uses fraud-protection safeguards such as a personal PIN and your previous year's adjusted gross income to ensure the person filing the return is authorized to do so. Your legitimate tax return may get caught up in the critical review process as an IRS representative reviews your application for errors and fraud before processing it.

Every spring the IRS' technology systems are put through their paces as millions of taxpayers file their returns. Like all software and hardware systems, some technical glitches may slow or delay the processing of tax returns. The IRS frequently updates their systems to ensure it works smoothly and efficiently but this, in turn, may cause small delays in processing your tax return.

The IRS provides the "Where's My Refund" tool on its website to keep track of your tax return and refund, if applicable. You enter your Social Security number, filing status and expected refund amount and the IRS displays whether your return is being processed or if it is complete. You may also call the IRS at 800-829-1954 to get the status of your tax return.

Leigh Thompson began writing in 2007 and specializes in creating content for websites. She has been published online in various capacities. Thompson has an associate degree in information technology from the University of Kansas and is working on a bachelor's degree in business and personal finance.

How to Track the Status of Your Refund

You rushed to file your return so you could get a refund quickly. Here's how to find out when you'll get your money.

Track my w2 refund checkBy Cameron Huddleston, Online Editor Track my w2 refund check

February 25, 2010

Yes, plenty of us wait until the last minute to file our tax returns. But some of you probably filled out your forms when you received your W-2 and other documents to get your refund as soon as possible.

If you filed a paper return at the beginning of February, you should be able to check the status of your refund by now by using the Where’s My Refund tool at IRS.gov. Taxpayers who file electronically can get a status update as soon as three days after the IRS acknowledges receipt of their e-filed return.

For those of you yet to file, the fastest way to get your refund is to have it directly deposited into your checking or savings account. You can do so by providing your account information on your Form 1040.

Last year, the total amount refunded to individual taxpayers broke the $300 billion mark for the first time. More than 110 million taxpayers got refunds averaging $2,753.

Sure, it feels great to get a big check you can use to pay down debt, fund a vacation or add to a retirement account. But it means you’re handing over too much money to Uncle Sam – money you could use each month to pay bills, buy groceries, invest in stocks or whatever.

Use our Tax Withholding Calculator to see how much you can add to your paycheck by adjusting your withholding.

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How to track your tax refund's whereabouts

Filing your tax return electronically shouldn't have to feel like sending something into outer space. There's no need to be in the dark about whether the IRS has accepted your tax return and when you can expect to receive your refund.

For example, tax-filing early birds who got their returns in electronically by Jan. 14, and elected to get their refund via direct deposit, should have received their money on Jan. 29. That's the first direct deposit date set by the IRS.

Assuming you weren't among those early filers, you can use the Where's My Refund tool on the IRS website to track your tax return and refund. It lets you check on the status of an electronic return within 24 hours of the IRS receiving it. But you'll have to wait four weeks after you mailed a paper return to check its status with the tool. Another great reason to e-file if you can.

Tax fraud warnings: Scammers steal identities to take IRS refunds

Where's My Refund lets you follow your return through three stages: Return Received, Refund Approved and Refund Sent. The site is updated only once per day, typically at night, so you'll need to check it just once daily to get any update. Only after the IRS has received your tax return, finished processing it and approved your refund will a personalized refund date be posted.

If the tool shows"Refund Sent" and you check your bank account but don't see it deposited, don't be alarmed. This status tells you the date the IRS sent the money to your financial institution. Know that it may take your bank as many as five business days to credit it to your account. However, if the refund still doesn't show up as a credit to your account, you should then follow up with the IRS and inquire as to where it was sent.

For those who can't wait that long, you can have your refund credited to a cash card instead of a bank account. Tax-preparation firm Jackson Hewitt has teamed up with American Express (AXP) to offer the Amex Serve Card. They say refunds are credited to the card as soon as the IRS notifies them that the refund has been sent, so it can be a few days faster than a direct deposit to your account. Of course, you have to use Jackson Hewitt to get this service.

If you've e-filed your tax return and it's taking more than 21 days for the IRS to update your status to Refund Approved, there could be several explanations. You tax return could take longer to process because it includes errors or is incomplete.

You could also be a victim of ID theft or tax return fraud. The IRS says you must wait until it has been 21 days after e-filing or six weeks after you mail a paper return before you contact it. The IRS number to call is 800-829-1040. But be prepared for a long wait. The agency is chronically understaffed, and call volumes are extremely high this time of year.

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