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Tax Return 2021 IRS delay: how long could it take and when will I be refunded?

This year, tax refund checks will be going out with more delays than in previous years. Here, we look at when you can expect yours.

Tax Return 2021 IRS delay: how long could it take and when will I be refunded?

This year, tax refunds will be going out with more delays than in previous years due to the processing backlog as a result of the pandemic. The tax filing season began on 12 February and ends on 15 April – apart from citizens in Texas and neighbouring states who were affected by last month’s winter storms, who have been granted a two-month extension and have until 15 June to file.

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IRS delays to tax return checks

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) report that they are experiencing delays sending out physical, paper tax return checks relating to 2020 (as opposed to direct deposit payments for those who filed online) as well as with all tax-related correspondence and mail is currently being processed in the order it was received.

According to the latest data, the number of individual tax refunds received by 26 February - 45,271,000, is down by 23.7% compared to the same point last year. A total of 39,402,000 individual returns have been processed in the first two weeks of the 2021 filing season compared to 57,085,000 at the same stage in 2020. The average refund issued to date is $2,880, which is also down on 2020’s figures.

There are a number of other reasons why some people have not received their tax refund. Some people have delayed filing until President Biden signs off his $1.9tn American Rescue Plan. The relief bill includes a $1,400 direct stimulus payment as well as a provision to waive tax on the first $10,200 in unemployment insurance for those who earned under $150,000 in 2020. That will obviously affect the tax return of those who received unemployment benefit last year; so for some, it makes sense to wait until the relief bill is passed as they might avoid paying a tax bill. The IRS is also believed to still be processing almost 7 million returns that correspond to 2019.

Where's my Refund?

The IRS warn that delays can be expected if you mailed a paper return or had to respond to an IRS enquiry about your e-filed return. You can find out what stage of the process your tax refund is in by using the ‘Where's my Refund’ tool or via the IRS2Go app – to do so, you will need your Social Security number (or ITIN), your filing status and the exact amount of your refund which is shown on Line 35a of Form 1040. The Where's My Refund data is updated overnight, every day but tracing may not be available while the site is being updated. Do not contact the IRS directly unless 21 days or longer have passed since you filed your return and have yet to receive any news.