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Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Productivity 101 | 33 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.


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?