Everyone loves getting a refund. The only thing better than getting a refund check in the mail is getting a refund direct deposited a few weeks earlier.
Sometimes there is a problem, and the refund doesn't show up when expected. If that happens to you, here's what to do.
First, make sure your return has been filed. If you mailed it, you know you're done. If we e-filed it for you, you should have received an email confirmation that the return was e-filed. Check for that email.
Once you've confirmed the return has been filed, consider how long it has been. Even e-filed returns can take 1-2 days to be processed by the IRS; obviously paper filed returns will take longer. Then the default is still 2-3 weeks before your refund will be direct deposited; expect 6-8 weeks if requesting a paper check. If you e-filed and it has only been 2 weeks, take a deep breath, relax, and wait a little longer.
Once the minimum time frame has passed and you still haven't received your refund, check the IRS "Where's My Refund" site at www.irs.gov/refunds. You will need your SSN, your filing status, and the exact amount of your refund. If you still don't get the information you are looking for, you might wonder if you should call. The IRS says most refunds are issued within 21 days, and you should only call if it has been 21 days or more since you e-filed, 6 weeks or more since you mailed your return, or if "Where's My Refund" tells you to contact the IRS.
So far we've been talking about what to do if your refund is delayed. But what if there is a problem? Well, it depends. Here are a few scenarios.
I requested direct deposit but my account is closed. When the IRS attempts to deposit to an invalid account, it will automatically reprocess the refund as a paper check. Expect your check to show up in a couple of weeks.
I requested direct deposit but I supplied an incorrect account number (that is an invalid account number). Recently the IRS has required a bank account verification form to be signed for returns requesting direct deposit to minimize chances for errors like this. However, the IRS assumes no responsibility for taxpayer or tax preparer error. Since the account number is invalid, the direct deposit will be unable to be processed. In that case the refund will be processed as a paper check, as explained above.
I requested direct deposit but I supplied an incorrect account number (that is a valid account number, belonging to somebody else). Again, with the recently required bank account verification form, this error is minimized. Even if there's an error, though, the IRS disclaims liability. If the account number is valid, but is not your account, the deposit may go through to the other account holder. You might find this out by confirming the IRS has processed the refund deposit but the deposit is not in your account. In this case you need to contact your financial institution. The IRS states that if funds aren't available or the bank refuses to return the funds, the IRS cannot compel the bank to do so. The case may then become a civil matter between you and the financial institution and/or the owner of the account into which the funds were deposited.
If you discover the error in time, (i.e., the return hasn't already posted to IRS system), you can ask them to stop the direct deposit. Call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040. For security reasons they will not change the direct deposit account number, but at least you can request the direct deposit be stopped and changed to a paper check.
If your refund is a different amount than you expected, wait a week. You should receive a notice explaining the changes. If it is less, you may owe for another tax period, or have a student loan in default. If it is more, don't spend it until you know what happened. Even if the extra refund was an IRS error, you are liable to repay the amount. In either case, you should receive a notice explaining why there is a change, and how it was calculated.
There is no limit on the dollar amount for refunds to be direct deposited. But for every rule there is an exception. Years ago I worked with a client with where we waited and waited for the direct deposit, and finally called the IRS to find out what happened. We learned that to combat identity theft and refund fraud, any direct deposit refunds over $10,000 from tax returns with a $0 tax liability are automatically held and processed as a paper check.
For the worst case scenario, there is Form 3911 Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund to help you track down lost refunds.
Tried all these and still need help? Give us a call. That's why we're here.
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