Irs refund less than filed

Irs refund less than filed DEFAULT

Topic No. Refund Information

Refund Timing

The IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in the normal time frame: less than 21 days. However, it’s possible that some tax returns may require further review and could take longer.

IRS representatives can research the status of your return only if:

  • It's been more than 21 days since you received your e-file acceptance notification,
  • It's been more than 6 weeks since you mailed your paper return, or
  • The Where's My Refund? tool directs you to contact us.

Some common issues which may extend processing times:

  • Refunds from amended returns are generally issued within 16 weeks.
  • If you filed an injured spouse claim, refer to Topic No. for more information.
  • For refund claims with an application for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) attached, refer to Topic No. for more information.
  • If you requested a refund of tax withheld on a Form S by filing a Form NR, allow up to 6 months from the original due date of the NR return or the date you filed the NR, whichever is later, to receive any refund due.
  • The IRS expects the earliest Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards the first week of March if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return. Taxpayers should check Where's My Refund? for their personalized refund date.

You can also refer to Topic No. for a checklist of common errors made when preparing your tax return and for additional items that may delay the processing of your return.

Refund Type

Join the eight in 10 taxpayers who get their refunds faster by using e-file and direct deposit. You have several options for receiving your federal individual income tax refund:

  • Direct Deposit: The fastest way is by direct deposit into your checking or savings account, including an individual retirement arrangement (IRA). See the Instructions for Form and Form SR PDF for more information. In an effort to combat fraud and identity theft, the IRS limits the number of direct deposits into a single financial account or prepaid debit card to three refunds per year. Taxpayers who exceed this limit will receive a notice and a refund check instead, which may take up to 10 weeks;
  • TreasuryDirect®: Deposit into a TreasuryDirect® online account to buy U.S. Treasury marketable securities and savings bonds. For more information, see Using Your Tax Refund for TreasuryDirect;
  • Traditional, Roth, or SEP-IRA: Directly deposit part or all of your refund into a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP-IRA, but not a SIMPLE IRA. You must have an existing IRA account before you file your return, and your routing number and account number. See the Instructions for Form and Form SR for more information. For more information on IRA contributions, see Publication A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs);
  • Savings Bonds: By purchase of U.S. Series I Savings Bonds up to $5,;
  • A Health Savings Account (HSA);
  • An Archer MSA;
  • A Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA); or
  • Paper Check: By paper check sent to the address listed on your return.

Splitting Your Refund

If you choose to receive your refund by direct deposit, you can split your refund into as many as three separate accounts. For example, you can request that we directly deposit into a checking, a savings, and a retirement account by completing Form , Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases) and attaching it to your income tax return. You can also use Form to buy up to $ in paper or electronic series I savings bonds. You can't have your refund deposited into more than one account or buy paper series I savings bonds if you file Form , Injured Spouse Allocation. As a reminder, your refund should only be directly deposited into accounts that are in your own name, your spouse's name, or both if it's a joint account. Your refund should not be direct deposited into an account in your return preparer's name. Please note, to receive your refund by direct deposit (whether into one account or more), the total refund amount must be $ or more.

Online or Mobile Device

Where's My Refund? has the most up to date information available about your refund. Use it to get your personalized refund status. The tool is updated once a day, so you don't need to check more often. You can also download our free mobile app, IRS2Go, from an iPhone or Android device to check Where's My Refund?

Checking Your Refund Status

You can start checking on the status of your refund within 24 hours after we've received your e-filed return or 4 weeks after you've mailed a paper return. Have your tax return handy so you can provide your taxpayer identification number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund shown on your return.

General Information

Where's My Refund? usually shows information for the most recent tax year filed in the current year.

For U.S. individual income tax returns filed on or after July 1, refund information will remain available throughout the following year until you file a tax return for a more current tax year.

The Where's My Refund? tool includes a tracker that displays progress through 3 stages: (1) Return Received, (2) Refund Approved, and (3) Refund Sent. Where's My Refund? provides a personalized refund date as soon as the IRS processes your tax return and approves your refund. It doesn't show information about amended returns. To check the status of an amended return, use Where's My Amended Return?

Where's My Refund? has the most accurate and complete information available. IRS representatives don't have information beyond what's shown on Where's My Refund? so you don't need to call the IRS unless the tool tells you to call. Updates to refund status are made no more than once a day - usually at night.

Telephone Access

If you don't have Internet access, you may call the refund hotline at , or call if checking on your amended return refund.

Not Entitled to Refund Received

If you receive a refund to which you're not entitled, or for an amount that's more than you expected, don't cash the check. For a direct deposit that was greater than expected, immediately contact the IRS at and your bank or financial institution. If you receive a notice from the IRS explaining an adjustment to a refund amount, you should do as instructed in the notice. For information about returning an erroneous refund, see Topic No.

Refund Less than Expected

If you receive a refund for a smaller amount than you expected, you may cash the check. You'll get a notice explaining the difference. Follow the instructions on the notice. If it's determined that you should have received more, you will later receive a check for the difference.

Missing Refund Check

If your refund check is lost, stolen or destroyed, the IRS will initiate a refund trace to determine the status of the refund. See I lost my refund check. How do I get a new one?

Additional Information

For more information about refunds, see Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions.


Why is My Refund Less Than Expected?

Where you depending on your tax refund only to find out the IRS reduced it drastically? Or, did the IRS not sent it all? Now, are you finding yourself asking questions like: Why is my refund less than expected? or Where's my refund? The IRS can reduce your tax refund for several reasons. Refund offset is the most common reason tax refunds are less than expected. Having an experienced tax preparer can hep prevent future let downs. You can also use our tax planning documents for free to ensure you are organized and ready for the next tax season.

What is a Tax Refund Offset?

A refund offset is when the IRS, specifically the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) Treasury Offset Program (TOP), sends all or part of your federal tax overpayment (refund) to certain qualified agencies to pay down your overdue debts. These agencies must meet specific criteria to qualify for this collection option. Refund offsets can be used to pay back past due:

  • federal income taxes,
  • child or spousal support payments,
  • federal agency non-tax debts, such as student loans,
  • state income tax, and
  • certain types unemployment compensation debt.

Agencies, typically, do not refer debts to the TOP database unless they are over ninety (90) days late. Before submitting a debt to TOP for collection, the agency must write you regarding your outstanding debt and give you opportunities to repay.

How Do You Determine if Your Tax Refund Was Offset by Outstanding Debt?

The good news is if your refund is used (offset) to pay down a debt you owe, the BFS will mail you a letter advising you of the deduction in your tax refund. The letter will include the amount of your refund, the amount used for the refund offset, and the name, phone number, and address of the agency receiving the money.

If you do not want to wait for the notification, the easiest way to confirm if your tax refund was offset by an outstanding debt is to check the Where’s My Refund tool on the IRS website and click on Check My Refund Status. Also, you can contact the agency you owe money and ask them if they submitted the debt for a tax refund offset. If you are not sure what agency may have submitted your debt for a tax refund offset, contact the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) Treasury Offset Program (TOP) at () or () for TTY/TDD.

If the IRS reduced your refund for a different reason, such as changes they made to your tax return, the IRS will send you a letter explaining how they reached the different amount.

How do You Stop Your Refund from Being Offset?

You can confirm whether or not you are in the TOP’s database by contacting them at () If your debt is registered with the TOP’s database, the easiest way to avoid your refund being used to pay down your debt is to pay it off. You can pay off your debt by calling () , online at website, or by mailing your payment to:

Department of Treasury
PO Box
St. Louis, MO

If you are facing hardship and cannot afford to pay your debt, there are certain circumstances, where the IRS will issue the refund to the taxpayer. It is important to discuss your options with a tax professional before you file your taxes. In most cases, if you wait until your refund has already been used to offset your outstanding debt, it will be too late unless an error was made.

Also, if you file married filing jointly and one spouse is subject to a refund offset, the other spouse can file a form titled, Injured Spouse Allocation, to have their share of the refund returned to them rather than used for the refund offset, that is, to pay down the other spouse’s debt.

The Bottom Line

There can be other reasons your refund is less than expected, such as the IRS made changes to your return. However, one of the most common reasons is because of a refund offset.

A refund offset occurs when an agency that meets specific criteria submits your past due debt to the IRS for collection, and the IRS uses your overpayment (refund) to pay down that debt by submitting all or a portion of it to that agency. If the IRS uses only a part of your refund to offset the outstanding debt, they will issue you a refund for the remaining balance. Also, if the IRS applies a refund offset, the BFS will send you a letter explaining which agency received the money, how much, and that agency’s contact information.

If you are facing hardship or the IRS made an error, you have options to determine why you refund was less than expected. If you are facing a refund offset, schedule an appointment today with the accounting and tax preparation professionals at Gudorf Tax Group before you file your tax return to review your options and plan for the best possible outcome.

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Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly will I get my refund?

We issue most refunds in less than 21 calendar days.

It is taking the IRS more than 21 days to issue refunds for some tax returns that require review including incorrect Recovery Rebate Credit amounts, or that used income to figure the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).

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

Many different factors can affect the timing of your refund after we receive your return. Even though we issue most refunds in less than 21 days, it’s possible your refund may take longer. Also, remember to take into consideration the time it takes for your financial institution to post the refund to your account or for you to receive it by mail.

It's been longer than 21 days since the IRS received my return and I haven’t gotten my refund. Why?

Some tax returns take longer to process than others for many reasons, including when a return:

  • Includes errors, such as incorrect Recovery Rebate Credit
  • Is incomplete
  • Needs further review in general
  • Is affected by identity theft or fraud
  • Includes a claim filed for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit. See Q&A below.
  • Includes a Form , Injured Spouse Allocation PDF, which could take up to 14 weeks to process

For the latest information on IRS refund processing during the COVID pandemic, see the IRS Operations Status page.

We will contact you by mail when (or if) we need more information to process your return. If we’re still processing your return or correcting an error, neither Where’s My Refund? or our phone representatives will be able to provide you with your specific refund date. Please check Where’s My Refund? for updated information on your refund.

I claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on my tax return. When can I expect my refund?

According to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS cannot issue EITC and ACTC refunds before mid-February. The IRS expects most EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by the first week of March, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return. Check Where’s My Refund for your personalized refund date.

Where’s My Refund? on and the IRS2Go mobile app remains the best way to check the status of a refund. WMR on and the IRS2Go app will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC/ACTC refund filers by February So EITC/ACTC filers will not see an update to their refund status for several days after Feb.  

Will calling you help me get my refund any faster?

No. unless Where’s My Refund? directs you to call us, our representatives will not be able to provide any additional information.

If Where’s My Refund? says that we’re still processing your return, our representatives won’t be able to give you a specific refund date.

What information does Where’s My Refund? have?

Usually information on the most recent tax year refund we have on file for you.

Can I use Where’s My Refund? to check the status of a refund on a prior year return.

Where’s My Refund? will display the status of your most recently filed tax return within the past two tax years.

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

Twenty-four hours after we’ve received your electronically filed tax return or 4 weeks after you’ve mailed a paper tax return.

Will Where’s My Refund? show me when I’ll receive my refund?

Where’s My Refund? will give you a personalized date after we process your return and approve your refund.

Will ordering a transcript help me find out when I’ll get my refund?

A tax transcript will not help you find out when you’ll get your refund. The information transcripts have about your account does not necessarily reflect the amount or timing of your refund. They are best used to validate past income and tax filing status for mortgage, student and small business loan applications, and to help with tax preparation.

I’m a nonresident alien. I don’t have to pay U.S. federal income tax. How do I claim a refund for federal taxes withheld on income from a U.S. source? When can I expect to receive my refund?

To claim a refund of federal taxes withheld on income from a U.S. source, a nonresident alien must report the appropriate income and withholding amounts on Form NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return PDF. You must include the documents substantiating any income and withholding amounts when you file your Form NR. We need more than 21 days to process a NR return. Please allow up to 6 months from the date you filed the NR for your refund.

How will I know you’re processing my tax return?

Where’s My Refund? follows your tax return from receipt to completion. It will tell you when your return is in received status and if your refund is in approved or sent status.

What is happening when Where’s My Refund? shows my tax return status as received?

We have your tax return and are processing it.

What is happening when Where’s My Refund? shows my refund’s status as approved?

We’ve approved your refund. We are preparing to send your refund to your bank or directly to you in the mail. This status will tell you when we will send the refund to your bank (if you selected the direct deposit option). Please wait 5 days after we’ve sent the refund to check with your bank about your refund, since banks vary in how and when they credit funds. (It could take several weeks before you receive a mailed refund check.)

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

Sometimes a few days, but it could take longer.

Does Where’s My Refund? always display my refund status showing the different stages of return received, refund approved and refund sent?

No, not always. Sometimes, when we are still reviewing your return, instead, it will display instructions or an explanation of what we are doing.

Does Where’s My Refund? update often?

Once per day, usually at night. There’s no need to check more often.

Will Where’s My Refund? give me my amended return’s status?

No, it won’t give you information about amended tax returns. Where’s My Amended Return? can give you the status of your amended return. (Our phone and walk-in representatives can only research the status of your amended return 16 weeks or more after you’ve mailed it.)

I requested a direct deposit refund. Why are you mailing it to me as a paper check?

There are three possible reasons. They are as follows:

  • We can only deposit refunds electronically into accounts in your own name, your spouse's name or in a joint account.
  • A financial institution may reject a direct deposit.
  • We can’t deposit more than three electronic refunds into a single financial account.

Why is my refund different than the amount on the tax return I filed? 

All or part of your refund may have been used (offset) to pay off past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support, or other federal nontax debts, such as student loans. To find out if you may have an offset or if you have questions about an offset, contact the agency to which you owe the debt.

We also may have changed your refund amount because we made changes to your tax return. This may include corrections to any incorrect Recovery Rebate Credit amount. You’ll get a notice explaining the changes. Where’s My Refund? will reflect the reasons for the refund offset when it relates to a change in your tax return.

Tax Topic , Refund Offsets for Unpaid Child Support, Certain Federal and State Debts, and Unemployment Compensation Debts has more information about refund offsets.

What should I do when the refund I receive is not from my tax account?

Please don’t cash the refund check or spend the direct deposit refund. Send the refund back to us. Tax Topic , Returning an Erroneous Refund – Paper Check or Direct Deposit has more information on what to do.

Federal tax refund delays

Where&#;s My Refund? How to Check the Status of My Tax Return

Find out if the IRS received your tax return and check the status of your refund. Learn why your tax refund could be lower than you expected.

Check Your Federal Tax Refund Status

If you have filed your federal income taxes and expect to receive a refund, you can track its status.

Have your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund ready. 

How to Check Your Refund Status

Use the Where's My Refund tool or the IRS2Go mobile app to check your refund online. This is the fastest and easiest way to track your refund. The systems are updated once every 24 hours.

You can call the IRS to check on the status of your refund. However, IRS live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time. Wait times to speak with a representative can be long. But you can avoid the wait by using the automated phone system. Follow the message prompts when you call.

When to Expect Your Refund

Refunds are generally issued within 21 days of when you electronically filed your tax return or 42 days of when you filed paper returns. If it’s been longer, find out why your refund may be delayed or may not be the amount you expected.

How to Check the Status of Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check

If you're trying to find out the status of your coronavirus stimulus payment, go to the IRS's Get My Payment page. You can learn whether your payment has been issued, and if it's coming by direct deposit or mailed check. 

Learn more about the stimulus payments, including whether you qualify for one and what, if anything, you may have to do to get yours.

Find out if Your Tax Return Was Submitted

You can file your tax return by mail, through an e-filing website or software, or by using the services of a tax preparer. Whether you owe taxes or you’re expecting a refund, you can find out your tax return’s status by:

If you file your taxes by mail, you can track your tax return and get a confirmation when the IRS has received it. To do so, use USPS Certified Mail or another mail service that has tracking or delivery confirmation services. 

What information should I have to get my tax return status?

If you call the IRS, you should have the following information ready when you ask about your tax return’s status:

  • Social Security number and birth date

  • Filing status: Are you single, married, or a head of household?

  • Any prior communications from the IRS

What is the status of my state tax return?

To see if your state tax return was received, you can check with your state’s revenue or taxation website. There, you can find out if your refund is being processed. Or, you can get further contact information to confirm that your return was received.

Is Your Tax Refund Lower Than You Expected?

If you owe money to a federal or state agency, the federal government may use part or all your federal tax refund to repay the debt. This is called a tax refund offset.  

How the Treasury Offset Program Works

Here's how the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) works:

  1. The TOP will check if your name and taxpayer information are in its delinquent debtor database.
  2. If there is a match, TOP will notify you that it is deducting the amount you owe from your tax refund.
  3. TOP will send the outstanding amount to the government agency to which you owed the money.

If you owe more money than the payment you were going to receive, then TOP will send the entire amount to the other government agency. If you owe less, TOP will send the agency the amount you owed, and then send you the remaining balance.

Here's an example: you were going to receive a $1, federal tax refund. But you are delinquent on a student loan and have $1, outstanding. TOP will deduct $1, from your tax refund and send it to the correct government agency. It will also send you a notice of its action, along with the remaining $ that was due to you as a tax refund.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can help you understand more about tax refund offsets.

If a Deduction Was Made in Error

If you believe that a deduction was an error, contact the agency that said you owed money. Call the Treasury Offset Program at to locate the agency you need to contact.

Undelivered and Unclaimed Federal Tax Refund Checks

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has millions of dollars in tax refunds that go undelivered or unclaimed. 

Undelivered Federal Tax Refund Checks

Refund checks are mailed to your last known address. If you move without notifying the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), your refund check may be returned to the IRS.

If you were expecting a federal tax refund and did not receive it, check the IRS' Where’s My Refund page. You'll need to enter your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund. You may be prompted to change your address online. 

You can also call the IRS to check on the status of your refund. Wait times to speak with a representative can be long. But, you can avoid waiting by using the automated phone system. Follow the message prompts when you call.

If you move, submit a Change of Address - Form to the IRS; you should also submit a Change of Address to the USPS.

Unclaimed Federal Tax Refunds 

If you are eligible for a federal tax refund and don’t file a return, then your refund will go unclaimed. Even if you aren't required to file a return, it might benefit you to file if:

  • Federal taxes were withheld from your pay


You may not have filed a tax return because your wages were below the filing requirement. But you can still file a return within three years of the filing deadline to get your refund.

State Refund Checks

For information about your state tax refund check, contact your state revenue department.

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Last Updated: October 4,


Filed than refund irs less

What to do if the IRS got your tax refund wrong

As of April 15, the IRS has sent out almost 89 million tax refunds. The average check amount is $2,

In most cases, the refund amounts are just what the filers expect. But occasionally, a tax refund is wrong.

In some cases, it&#x;s less than what was figured on the Every now and then, it&#x;s more.

Regardless of whether the refund discrepancy goes against you or favors you, some steps can be taken to resolve the matter. That way, even if you or the tax collector aren&#x;t necessarily satisfied with the eventual amount, you&#x;ll at least understand the mathematical misinterpretation.

Explanation en route

First, don&#x;t panic. There&#x;s usually a logical explanation for why you and the IRS came up with different numbers.

The IRS will send you a written explanation for the unexpected amount. The only problem is that the explanation doesn&#x;t always accompany the check. Such coordination of cash and comment is particularly difficult with directly deposited refunds, which are likely to show up unexplained in your account first.

Why your refund might be an unexpected amount:

  • Math errors were made in computing your tax bill.
  • Incorrect credit or deduction claims were made.
  • Estimated tax payments were not credited properly.
  • Other federal debts, such as a student loan, are collected.

Since the letter and check or direct deposit usually don&#x;t arrive simultaneously, you can always call the IRS if you get a refund check and have questions about the amount.

The main IRS toll-free number is () or () (TDD) for the hearing impaired. You also can call or visit your local Taxpayer Assistance Center. The IRS website has an interactive locator page to help you find the nearest one.

According to experienced tax pros, the best time to call is about an hour before the IRS office is scheduled to close. Mornings usually are very busy, and during tax-filing season, you&#x;ll probably be in for a long wait on hold at any time of the day.

Cash or hold the check?

As you&#x;re waiting for the explanation letter to clear up the refund issue, you also have to decide what to do with the more, or less, money you received.

It&#x;s usually not a problem to cash it, especially if it&#x;s a smaller difference, says Bob D. Scharin, senior tax analyst for the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters.

In fact, if the check is less than you expected and it turns out that you were correct, once you and the IRS resolve the matter in your favor, the agency will make up the difference (plus a bit of interest if it takes more than 45 days to correct the error) and send you another check for the balance due.

If, however, the difference is larger or your refund is much more than you believe you should have received, it&#x;s generally a good idea to hold off cashing the check or spending the money until the issue is resolved.

Recognize that you could be asked to send it back if the amount is more than you expected, says Scharin. That&#x;s easier to do if you still have all the IRS&#x; mistakenly refunded money in hand.

Documentation of the difference

Once you get the official word on why your refund is not what you had expected, it&#x;s time to figure out what happened.

A typical notice will show you some basic information: adjusted gross income, taxable income and total tax due. In each of these categories, the IRS will indicate what you entered and what the agency came up with. A major difference in one of these areas will pretty clearly show you where the problem lies.

The document should also note how much tax you paid and any over- or underpayment. Additional charges or credits, such as interest and penalties, also are taken into account.

Get out your return and try to reconcile it that way, says Scharin. If you used a tax professional to file your return, call that person for help in clearing up the matter.

In many cases, the notice will include a phone number. Scharin says a personal inquiry directly to the IRS could also help.

You might want to call before sending documentation, he says. You might find in speaking with a person, any confusion is cleared up, for good or otherwise. At least you&#x;ll know exactly what the agency needs from you to resolve the issue.

Common refund discrepancy causes

Most likely it is an arithmetic error, says Scharin. In these cases, the IRS simply corrects your calculations and sends you the proper refund amount.

Even tax software doesn&#x;t make you immune to addition and subtraction issues.

Scharin recalls one individual who did his taxes on a computer and forgot to press &#x;recompute.&#x; So even though he entered in everything correctly, he didn&#x;t finish the process.

You also might have claimed something that, based on your income, you&#x;re not entitled to, says Scharin. Income phaseouts, based on your adjusted gross income, affect several credits, he says.

But it just as easily could be an IRS error.

You may have made estimated tax payments, and one was not credited properly, says Scharin. From your records, you overpaid or paid properly, but the IRS doesn&#x;t think so. So send them a copy of the canceled check. If you paid your estimated taxes electronically, find that payment receipt and share it with Uncle Sam.

Estimated tax payments are a common culprit in divergent refund amounts. The amount of tax on the return is calculated correctly, but the filer and IRS come up with a difference on the amount of tax paid.

Other numbers that cause problems are those 9 Social Security digits. When any of those are wrong (such as transposed numbers, or they don&#x;t match other records, perhaps involving name changes after marriage or adoption), problems with your tax return &#x; and refund &#x; appear.

Refund issues also crop up when names of dependents don&#x;t match Social Security numbers. Husbands and wives have different names, as do their children.

Other debts collected from refunds

Your tax refund also might be a direct path to other money you owe.

The government can go through your federal refund to collect if you owe money to other government agencies. The most common cases involve court-ordered financial payments associated with a former marriage (e.g., delinquent child or spousal support payments) or unpaid student loans.

The IRS will even make sure it gets prior federal tax debts that you didn&#x;t clear.

Even taxpayers who have a payment arrangement in place with the IRS could encounter refund issues. The agreement with the IRS says it can apply any refund you have against what you owe.

Self-correcting your mistakes

In a worst-case scenario, you might not even get a refund.

You&#x;ll get a letter telling you to refile, says Scharin.

You also should refile your return and refigure your tax bill and any refund if you find a mistake that the IRS overlooked in processing. If the IRS does eventually notice the error, you&#x;ll face penalties and interest on the amount you didn&#x;t properly pay on time.

In these cases, file an amended return, Form X, and send the original, incorrect refund check back to the agency. If the money was directly deposited, use it to pay your correct tax due.

Since you cannot e-file Form X, the IRS says to include a letter of explanation with the returned check or corrected payment amount. The agency will issue you a refund for the proper amount when it processes your amended return.

When sending back an actual check, on the back where you normally would endorse it, write void. Send the check and your letter detailing why you&#x;re sending back the check. Be sure to include your name, Social Security number, mailing address and a daytime telephone number in case an agent needs to follow up with you.

Send the check back to the issuing center; you&#x;ll find that location on the front of the check. Before you drop it in the mail, make a copy of the check and your letter for your files. It&#x;s a good idea to send the material with a return receipt for additional verification for your records.

You also can call the IRS&#x; toll-free number and ask to speak to taxpayer accounts about steps to take, especially with regard to direct-deposit refund discrepancies.

It&#x;s no fun to return a tax refund, but by making sure you get your payment and refund records straight, you&#x;ll know you won&#x;t have to worry about unexpectedly hearing from the IRS in the future.

Reasons Why IRS Tax Refunds Delayed For Millions Of Americans - NBC News NOW

The tax refund I received is less than expected. Why is it less than what was on my return?

Tax information center : IRS : Refunds and payments

Don&#;t worry — we&#;ll help you figure out why the refund from your tax return is less than expected.  

There are lots of reasons why this might happen. In most cases, the IRS takes part of your refund to pay for outstanding government debts you might owe. 

These include:

  • Overdue federal tax debts
  • Past-due child support
  • Federal agency nontax debts
  • State income tax debt
  • Unemployment compensation debts owed to a state (for fraudulent wages paid or contributions due to a state fund)
  • Student direct loan and guaranteed loan repayments
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) loan repayments
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan repayments

The IRS handles outstanding debts for federal taxes. The Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Fiscal Services (BFS) handles all other outstanding debts. If they take refund money to pay a debt, you’ll get a notice from the BFS with information about why the refund from your tax return is less than expected. The notice will show all of these:

  • Original refund amount
  • Your offset amount (the amount of your refund money they take)
  • The agency receiving the payment
  • Address and phone number of the agency

Unexpected Smaller Tax Refund: What If I Don’t Receive a Notice?

If you don&#;t get a notice, you can call BFS at or (TDD for people who are deaf).

Contact the agency if you think you don&#;t owe the debt or you disagree with the amount taken from your refund. Contact the IRS only if your original tax refund unexpectedly differs from the amount on your return.


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You filed your taxes before the tax deadline and were fortunate enough to get a tax refund. But what if the amount the IRS deposited in your account is less than the refund you initially saw when you submitted your tax return? You may be wondering why your tax refund is less than you expected. 

There are a few reasons why refunds received from the IRS may be different than expected this tax season:

  • The IRS adjusted the recovery rebate credit calculated on your return
  • The IRS made adjustments due to differences in what is reported to them or adjustments to certain credits and deductions
  • Your refund is offset as part of the Treasury Offset Program 
  • An adjustment for Federal taxes owed for a previous year

Read on for more details to help you understand why your refund may be different than expected, but know that you don’t need to remember all of this come tax time. For answers to this question and anything else related to your tax situation, TurboTax Live tax experts are available in English and Spanish, year round, and can even review, sign, and file your tax return.

IRS Adjusted the Recovery Rebate Credit Calculated on Your Return

It is possible that your tax refund amount is less than you initially expected because of information regarding your stimulus payments and the Recovery Rebate Credit. 

Did you claim a credit to recover missed or partial first and second stimulus checks?

For the tax year (the taxes you typically file in ), many Americans who did not receive  the first or second stimulus payment, or the full amount they were otherwise eligible for, may be eligible to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their taxes. 

When completing your tax return TurboTax has proactive guidance regarding the Economic Impact Payments, also known as the stimulus checks, and will ask you if you received full or partial payments and the amount you received.

If you answered that you haven’t received the first or second stimulus checks, a recovery rebate credit is calculated increasing your refund, but if the IRS did issue them to you, the IRS will adjust your refund amount accordingly. This lowers the refund amount that was initially calculated for you when your tax return was filed. 

Or it&#;s possible that you may have entered a different amount of stimulus than the IRS actually sent to you when preparing your taxes, and the IRS made the adjustments. When processing your tax return, the IRS will cross-reference the information on your tax return with the information they have on file for you. So if the information regarding your stimulus checks doesn’t match IRS records, the IRS will automatically adjust your tax refund amount based on the actual stimulus payments they sent out and the information reported on Notice and Notice B. 

The IRS has announced that if there’s a mistake with the stimulus credit amount, the IRS will calculate the correct amount and make the correction and continue to process the tax return. If a correction is needed, this will cause a delay in processing the tax return and the IRS will send the taxpayer a letter or notice explaining any change.

Some common possible reasons why the Recovery Rebate Credit amount was corrected by the IRS are:

  • The taxpayer was claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return 
  • The taxpayer did not provide a social security number that is valid for employment purposes
  • The qualifying child was age 17 or older on January 1,  
  • A math error relating to the calculating adjusted gross income and any stimulus check amounts already received

If there’s a mistake with the Recovery Rebate Credit on the tax return, the IRS will calculate the correct amount and make the correction and continue to process the tax return. If a correction is needed, this will cause a delay in processing the tax return and the IRS will send the taxpayer a letter or notice explaining any change.

Other IRS Adjustments 

While your tax return is being processed, the IRS cross-references the information on your tax return with the information they have on file for you similar to the Recovery Rebate Credit situation mentioned above. The IRS will correct any differences there may be. It is possible that amounts reported to the IRS from other sources and what’s reported on your tax return is different. 

Some common errors that result in adjustments by the IRS include: 

  • Missed income, like small interest reported on a INT or a missing W2
  • Numbers that were transposed 
  • Adjustments to certain deductions or credits 

Some of these mistakes occur when you wait until the last minute to file. However, another common issue that results in lowing a tax refund are adjustments to credits or deductions as a result of someone else claiming your dependent on their tax return. If you provide over half of the support for your dependent and you are eligible to claim them, make sure no one else is claiming them and you have accurate information for who you can claim as a dependent. Always have a discussion with your child’s other parent (if possible) about who can claim them as a dependent if you are no longer together.

If the IRS makes adjustments to your tax return, they will send you an adjustment letter regarding the adjustments they made.

Treasury Offset Adjustment

It’s possible that your tax refund may have been reduced by the Treasury Offset Program. The Treasury Offset Program oversees the collection of overdue bills owed to federal and state agencies. Different federal and state agencies, such as the Department of Education and child support, submit delinquent debts that need to be collected. These bills are then taken from tax refunds which lowers the tax refund amount deposited. 

However, not all bills are subject to a tax offset. Bills from private lenders like a late car payment or missed cell phone bill will not reduce your tax refund. Learn more about some commonbills that can offset a tax refund. 

Typically the IRS will mail you out a notice if your tax refund is different than the amount you claimed on your tax return. The notice will include information on the refund you were eligible for, the amount your tax refund was reduced by, what agency the money was sent to, and contact information for that agency. 

Adjustment for Federal Taxes Owed for a Previous Year

Similar to reductions caused by the Treasury Offset Program, it is possible that your tax refund was reduced or eliminated based on federal taxes owed for a previous year.  

If you owe taxes to the IRS from a previous tax year, those taxes will be reduced from any eligible tax refund for the current year. The IRS will actually take payments for owed federal taxes from a previous year before any other federal or state agency under the Treasury Offset Program. 

We’ve Got You Covered

Get started on your taxes today. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your entries. If you have questions, you can connect live via a one-way video to a TurboTax Live tax expert with an average 12 years experience to get your tax questions answered. You can even connect virtually with a dedicated tax expert who will prepare and file your tax return in entirety with TurboTax Live Full Service. TurboTax Live tax experts are available in Spanish and English, year round and can even review, sign, and file your tax return.


Get your maximum tax refund with TurboTax today

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TurboTaxKat (20 Posts)

Katharina Reekmans is an Enrolled Agent and a contributor to the TurboTax Blog team. Katharina has years of experience in tax preparation and representation before the IRS. Her passions surround financial literary and tax law interpretation. She has a strong commitment to using all resources and knowledge to best serve the interest of clients. Katharina has worked as a senior tax accountant, operations manager, and controller. Katharina prides herself on unraveling tax laws so that the average person can understand them.


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