‘The IRS Lost My Tax Return’: What You Should Do To Get Your Refund Money Back

Yes, it’s no joke that the IRS can lose your tax return. 

If you have completed your tax return and sent it to the IRS, but they then say they never received it — don’t panic. We’re here to help you, and remember, you’re not the only one caught up in this frustrating and worrying situation. 

We all know it’s not your fault, but this is Uncle Sam we’re dealing with, so keep reading to learn how to fix this problem and claim your refund back.

What should I do if the IRS lost my tax return? 

If you got a notice from the IRS saying that they never received your tax return (they most likely did receive it and lost it in the system), respond and do what they request you to do ASAP. They will likely ask you to resend a signed copy of your tax return. 

In case the IRS didn’t contact you, what you should do next depends on the original method you opted to file your tax return.

  • If you e-filed your tax return:

Whether you filed your tax return directly on the IRS website or through a third-party tax company or service like TurboTax or H&R Block, log into the account that you used to file your tax and check the status of your return. 

  • If your return was rejected: you would need to either correct the issues causing the rejections and e-file your return again or file the return by mail.
  • If the return was accepted: find and write down your declaration control number (DCN). It is a 14-digit number that is given to each tax return. Then contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 and tell them your DCN and the date you e-filed.

BONUS TIP: How to call the IRS 

To contact the IRS, dial 800-829-1040 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time, Monday to Friday. 

After choosing your language (press 1 for English), do NOT choose option 1, “Refund,” otherwise, you’ll be directed to an automated phone line. Instead, press 2 for “Personal Income Tax.” Then, press 1 for “Form, Tax History, or Payment,” ? press 3 “for all other questions,” ? press 2 “for all other questions.”  

After that, you should be connected with an agent.

  • If you sent your tax return by post:

If you mailed your return, print another copy and re-mail it to the IRS. Any copies of Forms W-2 for the return should be attached. If you paid the tax you owed, include a copy of your canceled check and confirmation of processed payment 

Sometimes, you may need to prove that you did put your return in the mail and sent it, so it’s best to use certified or registered mail. This way, you will be able to track your document and have a paper trail confirming you have sent it by post. 

More importantly, keep all of your receipts and photocopies of the envelope with a postmark or anything that can prove you sent it. They will serve as your concrete evidence if you need them to prove your tax return was indeed sent and the IRS lost it. 

If you’re looking for a tool to help you store those vital documents, Shoeboxed is your best choice. Shoeboxed is an online application that can quickly and securely digitize your receipts and documents and store them in the cloud. On top of that, it automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts so that you can go over your records anytime with ease. Shoeboxed ensures it provides you with accurate data and always keeps your receipts securely backed up and ready for tax purposes. 

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What’s next: When will I get my tax refund? 

Once you’ve resolved all the problems related to your returns, you enter the next ‘worrying stage’: When will I get my tax refund? No wonder why everyone hates dealing with taxes. 

Honestly, there’s nothing much you can do apart from waiting to hear from the IRS. According to the IRS, most tax refunds are issued within 21 days, while some may take longer if the return requires further review, which may be prompted by the following issues::

  • Your return includes errors
  • Your return is incomplete.
  • Your return is affected by identity theft or fraud.

The IRS will contact you by mail if extra information is needed to process your tax return.

To track and stay updated about the process of your refund, consider one of the following methods: 

  • Visit Where’s My Refund?: enter your Social Security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), filing status, and the exact amount of your refund to check your refund status. 
  • Download the IRS’s mobile app IRS2go: prepare the same above-mentioned personal information details to track your refund. 
  • Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 (least recommended because as you probably know, you can easily get stuck waiting to speak to an agent.) 

Final thoughts 

It’s totally understandable if you feel panicked and stressed out when the IRS doesn’t receive your tax return. However, try to remain calm, re-file your tax return or prove to the IRS you did send it, then the IRS should quickly process your refund money.  
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When Uncle Sam Screws Up: What to Do if the IRS Lost Your Tax Return

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.

If the IRS lost your tax return, refunded the wrong amount, or just never sends your refund, 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.


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 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 owned thousands of dollars that have simply gone missing.

The best way to prevent a missing refund is to make sure you filed your original return 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. In case the check was cashed by someone else, you may need to deal with issues of identity theft and/or fraud.

Don’t count on those tax return dollars

When the IRS lost your tax return, 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 months to find, so think of your refund as more of a surprise bonus than the money you can count on to pay bills or upcoming business expenses.

Has the IRS ever lost your tax return? What did you do?

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