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Due a Tax Refund This Year?

How to check when it will arrive, and what could delay it

a hand puts mail in a mailbox


If you want to receive your tax refund in a timely manner, avoid these common filing mistakes.

If you’re due a federal refund, you should receive it within 21 days of filing your return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says.

You can track the status of your return from the time you get a receipt to when your refund is sent at Where’s My Refund on or by downloading the mobile app IRS2GO. You’ll need to submit your Social Security number, filing status and the exact amount of your expected refund.

About 9 of 10 filers due refunds are expected to receive them within the IRS’ three-week timeline, says agency spokesman Raphael Tulino. But there can be delays. Here are some common reasons the IRS will need to ask you for more information, which  can hold up your refund:

  • Sloppiness or incomplete information. Spelling your name wrong or providing the wrong Social Security number.
  • Incomplete returns. Omitting key data, such as failing to include Social Security numbers for dependents, or not including W-2 forms with returns.
  • Bad math. Computing errors, claiming the wrong filing status or mismatching wages to what’s listed on W-2 forms.
  • Your return is complex. The IRS usually takes more time to process returns from filers who itemize, and who have high incomes, multiple sources of income or large capital gains.
  • Wrong names. If the name on your tax return doesn’t match Social Security Administration (SSA) records. That includes if you got married in 2017 and now are using your spouse’s name; if you divorced and are using your former last name; and if a dependent, such as an adoptee, is using a new name.
  • Identity theft. If someone has fraudulently filed a return under your name and Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number before you’ve had a chance to file a return, it could take several months before a legitimate return is processed. The IRS received 242,000 identity theft reports from victims in 2017.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. These provisions of the new tax law will likely delay your refund if you’ve claimed either credit so the IRS can have more time to verify your claim.

The IRS will contact you by mail if it needs more information to process a return, Tulino says. The IRS says it will never call a taxpayer looking for personal information.

Looking for tax preparation help? AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program provides free tax preparation and filing assistance to low- and moderate-income filers. You don’t have to be an AARP member to get help. Check the Tax Aide Site Locator for locations or call 888-227-7669 toll-free.