Why Is My Tax Return Still Being Processed? – Important Things To Know

Are you tired of checking your bank account and not receiving your refund yet? A tax return still being processed can hinder your monetary plans, and you must keep track of the tax refund process. How? Read this article to know why your tax return is still in process and how to keep track of it.

Filing your tax returns is a crucial annual responsibility, but it can be frustrating when you find yourself waiting for an extended period with no updates on its processing status. If you’re wondering why your tax return is still being processed, this article aims to shed light on common reasons behind such delays and offers insights into the steps you can take.

If you have already submitted your federal tax return and are using the IRS, Where’s My Refund? Tool to track your refund status. You may be curious about the meaning behind the message “Your tax return is still being processed.”

According to Howard Samuels, a certified public accountant at Samuels & Associates in Florham Park, New Jersey, this message indicates that the IRS has received your tax return without issues. It assures you there is no need to worry about whether they received it.

Typically, the IRS processes most tax returns and issues refunds within three weeks or 21 calendar days after receiving them. However, there have been recent delays causing a backlog. To expedite the process, IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig advised filing electronically and opting for direct deposit instead of mailing a paper tax return, as stated on January 10, 2022.

Processing delays can arise due to several factors, like the sheer volume of tax returns received by authorities, errors or incomplete information, and other technical issues. If you’re concerned about the status of your tax return, understanding these common reasons for processing delays can help alleviate some frustration. Furthermore, we’ll explore proactive steps you can take to seek clarification and ensure your return is being processed efficiently.

Table of Contents

Tax refund status

To provide taxpayers with the convenience of tracking their tax refunds, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers an online tool called “Where’s My Refund?” This user-friendly tracker can be accessed via the IRS website or the IRS2Go app. It’s important to note that taxpayers will need specific information to utilize this tool effectively.

To get started, ensure you have the following details:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)
  • Filing status information
  • The exact refund amount stated on your tax return
Tax refund status
Image Source: National Tax Services

The time it takes to access your refund status through the “Where’s My Refund?” (WMR) tool depends on how you filed your tax return:

  1. For electronically filed 2022 income tax returns, you can begin checking your refund status within 24 hours or one day.
  2. If you filed your 2020 or 2021 income tax return electronically, you can start checking your refund status within 3 to 4 days.
  3. Paper returns sent by mail typically require four weeks of processing before you can check your refund status using the WMR tool.

Once you’ve submitted your tax return and utilized the refund tool, you’ll be able to track the progress of your refund through the following stages:

  • Return Received
  • Refund Approved
  • Refund Sent

After your tax return has been submitted, processed, and your refund is approved, the “Where’s My Refund?” tool will provide a personalized refund date, giving you an estimated timeline for receiving your refund.

Common status message changes include transitioning from the PATH refund status to the processing message, indicating an on-track refund approval. Changing from “still being processed” to “being processed” may suggest an issue detected in return, potentially delaying the refund. Conversely, shifting from “being processed” to “still being processed” signifies resolving a detected problem, with the IRS updating the account for future refund approval.

Tax refund by check

If your tax refund was issued as a check and lost or stolen during transit, it’s essential to take appropriate steps. Contact the IRS to initiate a trace on your refund. If you filed jointly, complete IRS Form 3911 (Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund) and mail it to the designated IRS service center for paper returns.

Tax refund by check
Image Source: Parade

For single filers, heads of households, or those married filing separately, you can report the lost refund by calling the IRS refund hotline. You can either use the automated system or speak to an IRS representative. Alternatively, you can visit the IRS website or use the IRS2Go mobile app to access the “Check My Refund Status” link and request a trace for a paper check refund that hasn’t been received.

Tax refund by direct deposit

If you were expecting your refund via direct deposit and have yet to receive it within 21 days, double-check the accuracy of your bank account number and routing number. Mistakes in entering this information could result in a successful deposit. It’s essential to rectify any errors on your return personally, as the IRS isn’t responsible for fixing them. Contact your bank for guidance on how to proceed. If your bank can’t assist, submit IRS Form 3911 to the IRS, requesting their assistance in reclaiming the funds and returning them to you.

How long will it take the IRS to send my tax refund?

The IRS usually issues tax refunds within three weeks, but some taxpayers could wait longer to receive their payments. If there are any errors in your tax return, the taxpayer might have to wait longer.

When a taxpayer’s return gets delayed due to an issue, its solution depends on how quickly and accurately a taxpayer responds. The ability of IRS-trained staff working under social distancing requirements due to covid-19 to complete the return processing is also essential.

 Image Source: PNGkey
Image Source: PNGkey

The date to receive a tax return also depends on your method of filing a tax return. According to the IRS, you will receive your return within six to eight weeks after processing if you submit a tax return. If your tax refund goes into your bank account via direct deposit, it may take five more days for your bank to post the money to your account.

If it takes the IRS 21 days to issue your check and your bank takes five more days to post it, you could wait 26 days for your tax refund. However, online services like “Venmo” and “Cash App” can deliver your tax refund a few days sooner since there is no waiting period for direct deposit.

Tax returns are still being processed after three months

Various factors could have caused a delay in your tax refund. Discrepancies arose between your numbers and those provided by your employer, or you may have accidentally omitted a line or an entire form. Another potential reason could be that you claimed a credit that requires a lengthier verification process by the IRS. However, the primary reason for the delay in tax refunds this year is likely due to the submission of a paper return.

 Image Source: Clear View Business Solutions
Image Source: Clear View Business Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increased backlog of tax returns, despite IRS employees having returned to work for some time. It’s important to note that while the pandemic has contributed to the delay, the reasons for delayed tax refunds before the COVID-19 crisis may still be applicable. If it has been three months since you filed your tax return, and you receive a message that your tax return is still being processed, you need to call at IRS’s hotline that provides relevant information.

Reasons you haven’t received your tax refund

Delays in tax refunds could trigger anxiety as the filer might need the money to meet a significant expense. Most Americans would have received their tax returns already by this time around. However, sometimes, a tax return gets delayed by a few cases; although a filer affirms to do everything right, there are still some common reasons that could delay your tax return. Let’s discuss these reasons briefly to present you with an overview.

Your tax return has errors or is incomplete

Whenever you file a tax return, you must cross-check every minor to significant detail you have provided. Providing accurate information is mandatory to receive your tax return on time; otherwise, you will wonder, “Why is my tax return still being processed.?” Before you submit your taxes to the IRS, take a second look to fix any potential errors and fill out each section.

 Image Source: Fatherly
Image Source: Fatherly

Moreover, if you received child tax credit payments last year, ensure the “Letter 6419” amount matches the amount you received. If you enter incorrect information, the IRS must review your tax return further, leading to extensive delay.

Your bank’s information is incorrect

Attention to the direct deposit information when submitting your tax return this year is crucial, especially if you have switched bank accounts since your last filing. Failing to update your direct deposit details with the new information can lead to your refund being returned to the IRS. Consequently, you can expect a delay of several weeks as the agency proceeds to mail a paper check to your address.

You filed a paper tax return

The Internal Revenue System IRS has emphasized the importance of electronic filing and direct deposits for taxpayers to expedite tax return processing and minimize delays. With potential mail delays, sending your return through traditional mail could result in a significant waiting period for the IRS to receive it and issue a paper check.

 Image Source: ABC News
Image Source: ABC News

Therefore, it is crucial, especially this year, to file your return electronically to avoid any potential delays in receiving your tax refund. Opting for free online tax filing services, readily available on various platforms, eliminates the need for paper tax returns and allows faster receipt of funds.

You filed for the child tax credit or earned income credit

If you are eligible for the child tax credit or earned income credit, the additional child tax credit is a refundable tax credit that can provide further assistance. To qualify for this credit, you must meet the regular child tax credit criteria and earn at least $3,000. At the same time, earned income credit (EIC) is a refundable tax credit that benefits low to moderate-income workers and families.

If you filed your return in January and included the child tax credit or earned income credit on your taxes, by law, the earliest you can get a refund is mid-February. Due to the higher number of frauds with these reliefs, the IRS takes a bit longer to prevent the issuance of fraudulent refunds. Assuming no errors, the IRS expects most taxpayers claiming these benefits to receive refunds in their bank accounts by the start of March.

The IRS suspects identity theft

If the IRS suspects possible identity theft on your tax return, they will hold your refund until your identity can be verified. In such cases, you may receive a 5071C letter from the IRS, providing instructions on how to prove your identity. It’s important to note that receiving this letter does not necessarily indicate proof of identity theft but rather a suspicion.

 Image Source: Inspired eLearning
Image Source: Inspired eLearning

To verify their identity, taxpayers can visit the IRS website and create an ID.me account or contact the dedicated phone number specified in the IRS letter. If these methods are unsuccessful, scheduling an in-person appointment at a local IRS office may be necessary. One effective way to prevent identity theft-related delays is by obtaining an “Identity Protection PIN” or IP-PIN. This unique six-digit ID is known only to you and the IRS, ensuring no one else can file a tax return in your name.

It’s important to remember that the IP-PIN is valid for one year only. If you wish to maintain the same level of identity protection in subsequent tax seasons, you will need to generate a new IP PIN.

Creating an IP-PIN online requires an ID.me account. However, obtaining an IP-PIN using IRS Form 15227, available online, and completing a telephone interview or in-person appointment is possible.

Your return needs further review

If the IRS notifies you that your tax return needs further review, expect a delay in receiving your refund beyond the usual three-week timeframe. For instance, receiving a CP09 notice signals that the IRS has received your return but needs to conduct a more thorough examination before issuing your refund. This notice may arise if you’ve claimed treaty benefits or deductions on Schedule A.

In cases where no issues are found, your refund may still take six to 12 weeks to process, provided you don’t owe any taxes. However, if the IRS identifies discrepancies in your return, they will send you a notice within the same timeframe, outlining the necessary steps to resolve the matter. As a result, you may end up waiting months longer than expected to receive your refund.

Avoid tax refund delays in 6 simple ways

After preparing your tax return and discovering you will get a refund, you might start planning how to spend or save it. But mistakes on your 1040 can keep you waiting for that refund. “When your return is right to start, the chances that you’ll get your refund quickly go way up. Likewise, the chances that you’ll get a letter from the IRS go way down — and that’s always good news,” says IRS spokesperson Eric Smith.

 Image Source: MARCA
Image Source: MARCA

We evaluated and mentioned the common mistakes that can slow the processing of your tax return and get your refund. You must avoid these six errors to get your refund faster. However, AARP says you can avoid delays by following six simple ways.

1.   File Online

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) strongly recommends filing tax returns online instead of paper forms, particularly if you wish to expeditiously receive your refund. Taxpayers who opt for electronic filing and choose direct deposit can typically expect to receive their refunds within 21 days of filing. In contrast, filing a paper return may lead to a significant delay in receiving your refund.

2.   Make sure all your documents arrive before filing

This is especially true of income forms like W-2s and 1099s. If you do not include all of these on your return, you will have a different result than what the IRS has on file. This will trigger a notice from the agency that will delay your return and refund.

3.   Report your child’s tax credit and stimulus payments accurately

If you received an advance CTC payment and other federal stimulus checks linked to COVID-19 relief in 2021, you must put the exact amounts on your return to avoid delays. The IRS is mailing unique letters about the money you received from the stimulus and CTC payments. Remember to reconcile these amounts against your records to ensure an accurate return.

4.   Claim the correct dependents

The main thing to look out for here is to ensure that the dependents you claim aren’t claiming themselves on their returns. If that happens, one of you will have to correct a return, which can cause delays. You also need to enter the correct Social Security number for each dependent.

5.   Make sure you sign your return

As the IRS’s Smith told AARP, “Sending in an unsigned paper return is like sending in no return at all. At that point, it’s not valid.” The IRS will have to return it to be signed, and by the time you send it back, it could already be caught up in a huge backlog.

6.   Sending your return to the wrong IRS processing center

The IRS will need to forward your return to the correct processing center, delaying when the agency’s staff can begin working on your filing. If you send it to the wrong center, the IRS will need to forward it to the right one, which puts you at the back of the line.

IRS offers tax filing tools

For those looking to file for free, those with a gross income of $73,000 a year or less can use the IRS’ “Free File Program.” According to the IRS, this program is the fastest way to file electronically and receive your refund through direct deposit. All refunds will be distributed through direct deposit if they provide a routing and account number.

IRS offers tax filing tools
Image Source: Real Simple

For filers with low incomes needing to correct an issue related to an audit or refund with the IRS’ low-income taxpayer clinics (LITC). It helped secure over $5.8 million in tax refunds and reduced or corrected taxpayers’ liabilities by over $116 million in the previous year. These clinics also worked with almost three thousand taxpayers to ensure they were up-to-date and compliant with the IRS.

Refund status message update

Here are some examples of changes you may encounter in the refund status messages when using the Where’s My Refund? Tool, along with their meaning:

Previous: The PATH Refund Status

Updated: We have received your tax return, and it is being processed.

If the refund status displayed in the WMR tool transitions from the PATH refund status to the processing message, it indicates that your tax return is progressing toward approval for a refund, and there are no identified discrepancies in the information you provided.

Previous: Your tax return is still being processed.

Updated: we have received your tax return, which is being processed.

If your refund status previously indicated “your tax return is still being processed,” but it has now changed to “it is being processed,” it suggests that the IRS may have identified an issue in your tax return that could delay your refund’s release.

Previous: We have received your tax return, which is being processed.

Updated: Your tax return is still being processed.

If your refund status shifts from “We have received your tax returns, and it is being processed” to “your tax return is still being processed,” it indicates that any issues or discrepancies identified in your tax return have likely been resolved. The IRS system will update your account as it is eligible for approval and a specific refund date in a subsequent processing cycle.


Why is the refund amount different from the tax return I filed?

Your refund may be offset to pay off past-due federal or state taxes, unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support, or other federal nontax debts such as student loans. To determine if there is an offset or if you have any questions, contact the agency to which you owe the debt.

Your refund amount may also have changed because we made corrections or adjustments to your tax return. This includes rectifying any incorrect Recovery Rebate Credit or Child Tax Credit amounts. You will receive a notice explaining the changes.

How long will it take for me to receive my refund?

The IRS usually issues refunds in less than 21 calendar days. However, if you filed a paper return, it may take four weeks or more to process. For the most up-to-date information about your refund, you can check the Where’s My Refund? Tool.

I’m relying on my refund for something important. Can I expect to receive it within 21 days?

Various factors can influence your refund’s timing after receiving your return. Although most refunds are issued in less than 21 days, your refund can take longer. Additionally, you should consider the time it takes for your financial institution to process the refund or to arrive by mail.

It has been more than 21 days since the IRS received my return, and I have not received my refund. Why?

The duration of processing tax returns may vary due to various factors, such as the submission method (e.g., mail), the presence of errors or incomplete information, the need for additional review, cases of identity theft or fraud, claims for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), or the inclusion of Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which may take up to 14 weeks to process. You can refer to the IRS Operations Status page for the most up-to-date details on IRS refund processing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When can I anticipate receiving my refund if I include either the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on my tax return?

As per the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS cannot issue refunds related to EITC and ACTC before mid-February. Most refunds associated with EITC/ACTC are expected to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by February 28 if direct deposit was chosen and there are no other issues with the tax return. However, some taxpayers may receive their refunds a few days earlier. You can check the Where’s My Refund? tool for your personalized refund date. The tool will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC/ACTC refund filers by February 18.

When should I contact the IRS about the status of my refund?

Only contact us about your refund status if the Where’s My Refund? Tool directs you to do so.

What information does the “Where’s My Refund?” Tool provide?

The “Where’s My Refund Tool?” displays the status of your refund for the tax year you select.

Does the refund hotline provide the same information as the “Where’s My Refund?” website or the IRS2GO mobile app?

The automated hotline 800-829-1954 can only provide refund status information for the 2022 tax year; it can not give you the refund status for any other year.

Why can I not verify my prior year’s refund status through the hotline?

If you call about a prior year refund, you won’t be assisted on the hotline, even if the “Where’s My Refund?” advised you to call that number.

When can I start checking “Where’s My Refund?” for my refund status?

You can start checking the status of your refund on the “Where’s My Refund?” tool according to the following timelines:

  • 24 hours after e-filing the tax year 2022 return
  • 3 or 4 days after e-filing the tax year 2020 or 2021 return
  • Four weeks after filing a paper return

How long will it take for my status to change from return received to refund approved?

The time it takes for your status to change from return received to refund approved varies depending on the information provided on your tax return. In most cases, returns change from return received to refund approved after a few days.

I requested a direct deposit refund. Why did I get the refund mailed to me as a paper check?

You might get a refund by mail in the form of a paper check instead of a direct deposit for several reasons.

  • Because the IRS can only deposit refunds electronically into accounts in your name, your spouse’s name, or a joint account.
  • A financial institution may reject a direct deposit for various reasons.
  • The IRS cannot deposit over three electronic refunds into a single financial account.


Many US citizens have already organized their 2021 tax returns, yet some may still await their 2020 returns. Waiting for a tax refund can induce anxiety, leaving you pondering, “Why is my tax return still processing?” Filing your tax return promptly is crucial, especially if you anticipate a refund. Pay close attention to providing all necessary information to avoid delays.

Most delays in receiving your tax return stem from common mistakes, which you can sidestep by adhering to the guidelines provided by the department. The IRS website offers tools to track your tax return, so ensure accuracy to prevent delays in processing.

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

Tony Benett makes his living in the insurance industry by teaching and consulting. He is also recognized by the legal profession as an expert on insurance coverages. His insurance experience includes having worked at the company level, owned an independent general agency and having worked for an insurance association. He has received various certificates over the past few years and helps his clients and readers by giving them a realistic outlook on what they can expect to achieve within their set targets. At Insurance Noon, he is known for his in-depth analysis and attention to details with accuracy. He has been published as one of the most referred agents by his peers in the insurance community. Tony loves the outdoors and most sport events. His passion other than providing excellent advice is playing golf.