The IRS is warning taxpayers to prepare for another year of tax refund delays. The agency says the best way to prevent a refund delay is filing an accurate tax return electronically as early as possible.
The IRS is promising to send tax refunds in fewer than 21 calendar days if you file online and choose direct deposit, but some tax experts aren’t too optimistic. Even as late as December 2021, the agency was still working through a backlog of millions of 2020 returns.
SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor
1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.
2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.
“We definitely saw that refunds were slower last year than usual, and that was probably related to the reconciliation of the stimulus payments,” says April Walker, lead manager for tax practice and ethics at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Other factors can also contribute to a delay, like stimulus payments. We asked experts how to make sure you’re not waiting months for your 2021 refund.
SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor
1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.
2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
1. Don’t wait for your W-2
It’s common practice to wait for your employer to send you a W-2 form before filing your taxes, but there are other ways to access that information when you file electronically, says Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant at TurboTax.
You can most likely look up your W-2 information and automatically import it into your tax return, Greene-Lewis says. Electronically uploading the information into your tax return form will also eliminate any mistakes that could happen if you enter it manually, she says.
Even if errors are unlikely, it’s crucial to scan for mistakes or omissions on your tax forms. Make sure the income on your report matches your W-2 form and that you use accurate Social Security numbers for you, your spouse and your dependents.
“What’s more important than filing early is filling out the return correctly,” Walker says. “If there is an error on the return, the IRS will immediately flag the return.”
Once you file a return, you can track your tax refund using the IRS’ free “Where’s My Refund” tool. If you find yourself waiting longer than 21 days for your check, there isn’t much you can do besides checking the status on the IRS website, Walker says. If you have an IRS account, you can look up your tax information online, she says.
2. Report any stimulus payments
Your refund could look different this year because of stimulus payments, expansions in the tax code, and provisions in the American Rescue Plan.
“There are a variety of changes people will notice when filing taxes this year,” says Kathy Pickering, chief tax officer of H&R Block. Tax expansions are designed to help the U.S. economy and families recover from the pandemic, Pickering says.
It may take the time for the IRS to process refunds that include stimulus payments, says Walker. For example, if you received a Child Tax Credit this year your refund could be delayed, she said. It’s important to report any income you received from stimulus packages because any misreported income can stall your refund.
“You want to make 100% sure you have the right amount,” Walker says. You can look up information about your tax credits and stimulus payments using your IRS account, she says.
The IRS will send Letter 6419 to you if you receive Child Tax Credit payments. Walker recommends waiting to file your return if you’re expecting this tax form. Be aware that if you’re married, filing jointly, you will get two letters because a payment was made to each spouse.
If only one of you received a letter, don’t just double the payment and assume it’s correct, Walker warns. “This is definitely not the year to make any assumptions.”
3. Find a tax advisor
If your taxes are more complicated this year, you may want to find a reputable advisor.
There are different certifications a tax advisor can receive. A certified public accountant can help you prepare your taxes and offer broader tax advice. A certified financial planner can advise you on tax preparation, financial planning, and retirement. You should narrow your advisor search based on your financial needs and goals.
If you want to stick with electronic filing, services like H&R Block and TurboTax give you access to live advisors who can guide you through the filing process and answer questions. The IRS website also has resources to help you file your taxes and depending on your income level, you might qualify for free help preparing your taxes.
“A tax pro can help navigate all of these changes and make a real difference with this filing season,” Pickering says.
- 49 surprising facts about American taxes & taxpayers
- Here’s why parents should file their taxes early
38 ways to earn passive income
Featured Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / iStock.