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Millions of people look forward to getting a refund at tax time.  It’s their chance to pay down debt, catch up on bills or treat themselves to something nice.  While most refunds are issued within 21 days, there are things that can slow down your refund.  Therefore, it’s a good idea not to spend the cash until it’s in your account.  Here are some reasons the IRS may delay your refund.

You chose to file a paper return

Most taxpayers e-file their returns, but there is still a small group of people who’d rather file by paper.  With that approach, it can take 4 weeks for your return to be processed.  Then you’ll have to wait a few more weeks for the IRS to issue your refund.  E-filing is faster and easier, especially when you use  You can e-file in just 30 minutes and begin tracking your refund shortly after acceptance.

You claimed the EITC or ACTC

Some people like filing their taxes as soon as they get their W-2 so they can get their refund as fast as possible.  Just bear in mind that if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, you won’t be getting your money as quick as you think.  Due to anti-fraud laws, the IRS isn’t allowed to issue your refund before mid-February.  That means you may not get your money until March.

Your return was rejected

A major perk of e-filing with a tax program like is that you’ll know whether your return was accepted or rejected within 24 hours.  If your return is rejected, you will not receive your refund until you have corrected the issue and refiled the return.  So, make sure you’re checking your emails to stay in the loop.  Mismatch errors are one of the most common causes of rejection.  You must enter the correct name, date of birth and Social Security numbers for you, your spouse and dependents.  If the information you provide doesn’t match the Social Security Administration’s records, the IRS won’t accept your return. 

Entering the wrong prior year adjusted gross income (AGI) is another common issue.  Luckily, this problem can easily be fixed by downloading a copy of last year’s return.  Your AGI can be found on line 7 of your 2018 Form 1040.  If you filed late in the year or didn’t bother filing at all, your AGI is 0. 

You provided the wrong direct deposit information

Direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get your tax refund, but you must provide the correct routing and account numbers.  Get it wrong and you may delay your refund by a few weeks or months.  Typically, when the IRS is unable to deposit your money, they’ll issue a check to the address listed on your return instead.  That’s the best-case scenario.  If you’re not so lucky and the account number you entered belongs to someone else, you’ll need to rely on your bank for help.

Your refund was seized to pay a debt

Believe it or not, the IRS can take your refund and apply it to certain debts.  If there’s anything remaining once you’ve satisfied your debt, it will be deposited into your bank account.  You can lose your refund over back taxes, defaulted federal student loans, unpaid child support, and overdue spousal support payments.