Millions of Tax Refunds Could Be Delayed This Year. Here’s What You Can Do.

What's behind the extra wait and how you can check on your refund.

It was a month later than usual, but tax season just came to an end. If you filed under the wire and are owed a refund from the IRS, you’re probably wondering when you’ll get your hands on that cold, hard cash. On that front, we’ve got some bad news: it’s more likely that your refund is delayed this year than it has been in years past.

Here’s what you need to know about why the IRS is behind, when you’ll get your money, and how you can check on it in the meantime.

Why are tax refunds delayed?

A combination of years of underfunding, pandemic-motivated office closures, calculating and distributing stimulus payments, and the passage of the American Rescue Plan—which contained changes to the tax code—after millions of returns had already been filed has put the agency behind schedule on this year’s returns.

On the bright side, the IRS does pay interest on some delayed refunds, so you could be in line for a slightly larger-than-expected payment.

When will I get my money?

In normal years, the IRS promises refunds on electronically filed returns within 21 days of filing. That’s still the promise this year, with the dreaded caveat that “processing may take longer under certain circumstances.” The IRS says refunds on paper returns can take six to eight weeks to arrive.

How can I check on my refund?

The Where’s My Refund? tool on the IRS website is the best (and, considering that the agency is dealing with record call volume) likely the only way to check on your refund. All you need to use it is your SSN or ITIN, filing status, and exact whole dollar refund amount from your return.

When you use either tool, it will tell you when. your return has been received, when it’s been approved, and when your refund has been sent to you via mail or, preferably, direct deposit.

These tools won’t get you your money any faster, but they do provide the comfort of knowing that you didn’t send your return into the void.