If you’ve submitted your federal tax return and are checking the IRS Where’s My Refund? tool to find out the status of your refund, you may be wondering what “your return is being processed” means.
It means the IRS “got your tax return, so you don’t have to sweat that there was an issue with them receiving it,” says Howard Samuels, a certified public accountant at Samuels & Associates in Florham Park, New Jersey.
Typically, the IRS processes most returns and issues refunds within three weeks or 21 calendar days of receipt. But recently, there have been logjams. One way to speed things along is to make sure you file electronically with direct deposit, avoiding a paper tax return, IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement on January 10, 2022.
Here’s what you can do if you suspect your federal tax refund is delayed or you need more information about your return.
If there’s a backlog, prepare to wait a few more weeks than normal, Samuels says. “At this point I would say sit tight for at least four to six weeks. After that, you may want to call the IRS to find out what’s going on,” he says.
In 2021, taxpayers who called to ask about their financial situations had just a 1 in 9 chance of being answered — and those who did get through lingered on hold for an average 23 minutes, according to an annual report from the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
“Your best best is to call first thing in the morning as soon as the IRS opens at 7 a.m. ET,” Samuels says. “I’ve also heard some people have luck when they call later in the day around 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. [Eastern] right before the IRS closes at 7 p.m.”
If it takes a while for you to get your money from the government, there is a silver lining, Samuels says: “The law requires the IRS to pay interest on any delayed refund checks.”
If you don’t receive a refund within 45 days of the tax filing deadline, the IRS will owe you interest.
In 2020, the IRS owed many taxpayers interest on late refunds. The average interest payment was $18.
“If you’re waiting on a bigger refund, that could be real interest, and it compounds daily,” Samuels says.
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