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Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Productivity 101 | 18 comments

When Uncle Sam Screws Up: What to do if the IRS loses your refund

When Uncle Sam Screws Up: What to do if the IRS loses your refund

If the IRS loses your refund, or refunds the wrong amount, or just never sends your refund at all, no problem!

Simply call ‘em up, let them know you haven’t received your funds, and watch as the missing money magically appears in your bank account.

Right?

Unfortunately, a missing or inaccurate tax return refund can be really difficult to track down. Long wait times on the phone and the inability to simply text Uncle Sam to get the issue resolved can mean waiting weeks, months, even over a year to get your money back.

Here is what you can do to make sure a lost refund ends up in the hands of its rightful owner (that’s you!) as quickly as possible.

Get it right the first time

When you consider the fact that there are hundreds of millions of Americans filing taxes and receiving refunds each year, Uncle Sam’s overall accuracy is amazing.

However, that’s not very comforting when you’re the one who’s owed thousands of dollars that have simply gone missing.

The best way to prevent a missing refund is to make sure your original return is filed accurately. When you start amending returns, making changes, and increasing the amount of paperwork the IRS has to do, mistakes are much more likely to happen.

Wait 16 weeks

The IRS is still playing catch up after last year’s government shutdown, so the amount of time it will take to get your refund is longer than usual. Even if you’ve opted to receive an electronic refund, it could still take up to 16 weeks for your refund to show up in your bank account, with the absolute fastest turnaround time being 21 days.

Check Where’s My Refund?

While you’re waiting, you can check the status of your return by visiting Where’s My Refund? on the IRS website.

Be sure it’s been longer than 24 hours since filing electronically, and longer than 4 weeks if you filed by mail. You’ll need to provide your social security number, filing status and the exact amount of your refund. You’ll then be able to see the date on which you can expect your return to be deposited into your bank account or for your check to be mailed.

Opt for Power of Attorney

So what happens when you wait 16 weeks, you check Where’s My Refund?, and the IRS has no record of monies owed?

It’s time to call in the big boys.

If your refund is simply nowhere to be found, you will need to contact the IRS. If you work with a tax professional, you may need to sign over Power of Attorney so they can investigate the missing money.

Be sure to keep copies of any and all correspondence you’ve received from the IRS, especially the letter indicating the amount of your return.

If the IRS claims to have mailed you a check, but you’ve never received said check, you may need to file a claim and open an investigation. If the check was lost in the mail, the IRS can issue a new one. If the check was cashed by someone else, you may need to deal with issues of identify theft and/or fraud.

Don’t count on those tax return dollars

When your refund is lost, the best thing you can do is be patient. When you’re due a refund, it’s easy to start planning what you’re going to do with the money once you receive it. A lost refund, however, could take many months to find, so think of your refund as more of a surprise bonus than money you can count on to pay bills or upcoming business expenses.

Has the IRS every lost your refund? What did you do?

Meet Emily Farrar


At Shoeboxed, Emily focuses on keeping our users happy and engaged. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Public Relations and an avid Tar Heels fan. She enjoys traveling, staying active and spending time with her six-year-old Maltese, Madam.

  • Chris

    They actually lost my direct deposit this year. A twofold hilarity: Joint return spouse refund offset – Used refund to pay for tax prep(money funnels though third party). So tax company says we didn’t get paid due to offset. I filed the form for injured spouse(spouse has no income, they get nothing and we worked out that issue anyway). 12 weeks later they just say “we don’t have your money we sent it to you sorry”. Then I had to file a refund trace. 9 weeks later, “Sorry for the delay, in 6-12 weeks we will send a replacement check IF we find the money”.

    Needless to say, I’m not counting on it. Worst part, $8000 refund.

  • Emily at Shoeboxed

    That sounds like quite an ordeal! We hope it gets sorted out. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Kate Duttro

    The article was sort of interesting, but really not very useful – was there an answer to the title? I didn’t see one…..

  • Tori Voss

    They owe me money. They had in system it was received as of 1/29 and would take 8-12 weeks for processing. After the 12th week. The system now says they have no record of my return. I called waited an hour was placed on hold and rep never came back. So now what do I do?

  • Clayyton

    2015 Sent my taxes in and IRS cashed check and lost the paperwork. only way I found out is trying to close on a house and no transcripts. What a JOKE!

  • Clayyton

    Oh course IRS will not take responsibility however. I mail the check and the return together so I know it was sent. wish THEY would get audited. Now Im scrabbling to close on my house. calling IRS was no help. Atleast the guy on the phone from the IRS said sorry but would not give me a letter stating they lost paperwork. Nice I have copies now of the cashed check. Yep Im pissed!

  • Clayyton

    Anyone know where I can fill a complaint that will matter?

  • Wendy Weeklund McClure

    That is exactly what is happening to my clients trying to purchase a home – what did you do??

  • Andy Stoeckel

    This exact thing is happening to my wife and I right now. It looks like it’s going to prevent us from closing on our home because the IRS has no idea where our 1040 went (but they were happy to cash the check we sent them). Did you find a way to fix this?

  • Wendy Weeklund McClure

    Yes my clients went to my tax accountant re-E filed their taxes electronically they got a call from an IRS advocate who is going to watch for those to be processed within 3 to 5 days then we can order the transcripts and close on the house

  • Brett

    I had to file a 1040x for tax year 2014 to receive the taxes portion of my military combat severance check which is non- taxable. I filed 13 weeks ago and checked the website it says “take action call the IRS with a copy of your amended return”. It’s almost 2017 and I’m still fighting to get this done. Everything is absolutely correct and I’ll add this is the 3rd amended return they lost.

  • Juliana Fitzpatrick

    Just happened to me as well. Close on home in 9 days!
    How do I get an advocate?I had accountant e-file immediately. No help on either time I called tthe IRS to help get this corrected.
    Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

  • Wendy Mcclure

    Juliana, have your accountant send the e-file confirmation to the underwriters of your loan they should except that as your transcript of filing your taxes then you can close on your new home!!!!

  • Juliana Fitzpatrick

    Thanks Wendy. I’ll ask. The Irs advocate said they couldn’t do anything faster than the e-file. I don’t know if my lender will do that, but I will ask.
    How long did it take for yours to show in the system?

  • Wendy Weeklund McClure

    Juliana – I really don’t know if the advocate really saw them but the underwriter did approve the filing! It took one week after filing!!

  • Michael Haney

    I filled 2013, 2014, and 2015 at the same time, 3 separate envelopes and received only 2015….. called them up about 2 months after receiving 2015 and they said they never received the paperwork….. what a joke!

  • Michael Hourigan

    We feel your pain Michael! Did you ever get it sorted out?

  • Teresa

    My son is getting the runaround because the IRS is saying they direct deposited the refund and the bank is saying they didn’t receive the deposit. We have official letters from each saying they don’t have the money. The IRS is telling him he has to file a civil complaint against the bank! Does anyone have any idea how to handle this??