7 Refund Rumors Debunked—IRS Addresses Common Misconceptions
by Susannah Hornback
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When it comes to taxes, there is a lot of confusion and frustration over less-than-clear communication. That becomes even more true with refunds; while nine out of ten refunds are issued in 21 days or less, many taxpayers are still left with questions and empty bank accounts.
It can get easy to go to friends (and friends of friends) for the answers we need, but sometimes well-meaning speculations turn into rumors, which become “insider scoops” that don’t really hold water.
Let’s look at seven common misconceptions about tax refunds.
Calling the IRS or visiting an IRS office doesn’t actually speed up a refund
Yes, it feels like you’re getting somewhere when you can get a human being on the other end of a phone call, but calling the IRS won’t actually speed up your refund.
The Taxpayer Assistance Center has the same information available in the “Where’s My Refund?” tool. Even if you get a representative on the phone, you will get the same info as you would by using the tool.
A quick note: If you don’t have internet access, you can use “Where’s My Refund?” by calling the automated refund hotline at 800-829-1954.
Taxpayers don’t have to wait for their 2020 return to be processed before filing their 2021 return
Generally, you don’t have to wait for your 2020 tax return to be fully processed to file your 2021 tax return. Just file when you’re ready—and if your 2020 tax return hasn’t finished processing, here’s how to handle prior-year AGI.
A tax transcript won’t include a refund date
While you can use a tax transcript to validate past income and help with tax prep, ordering one won’t affect the timing of your tax refund. Again, the “Where’s My Refund?” tool is the fastest and most accurate way to check the status of a refund.
Sometimes “Where’s My Refund?” doesn’t have a deposit date, and that’s okay
As we mentioned before, most refunds arrive less than 21 days after the return is accepted. That said, it’s possible your refund may take longer for a variety of reasons, like further security reviews, simple errors, or incomplete forms.
Your refund might be less on “Where’s My Refund?” than your tax return, and that doesn’t mean it’s wrong
Different factors can cause a tax refund to be smaller than expected. For example, back taxes will be taken out of your refund before you get what’s left—and the same goes for unpaid child support.
If the IRS makes any adjustments to your refund, they’ll mail you a letter of explanation. You might also get a letter from the Department of Treasury's Bureau of the Fiscal Service may also send a letter if certain financial obligations caused the refund offset.
Calling a tax pro won’t get you an insider’s scoop on your refund date
Tax pros only have access to the same “Where’s My Refund?” information that you and the IRS call center do. They can’t move up a refund date or give special insider info—they’ll be using the same tools you can access online.
Even if you get a refund this year, you should still check your withholding for 2022
Does your employer withhold taxes from your paychecks throughout the year? It’s a good idea to double-check how much they’re withholding before we get too far into 2022.
You want to make sure your employer is setting enough aside to cover your taxes owed—and just because you got a refund this year doesn’t mean that holding course will get you a refund next year, too.
Life events like marriage or divorce, childbirth, adoption, home purchase, or major income change are ideal times to check back with your withholding throughout the year. Now that taxes are top of mind, double-checking your withholding is a great idea.
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