Income Tax Refund Myths

Tax season is once again behind us and if you are entitled to a refund, you are anxiously awaiting for the same.  But, with the pandemic, some people are still awaiting their 2019 refunds, let alone their 2020 refunds. 

There are facts about receiving your refund and there are plenty of myths about refunds.  Here is some information that will hopefully dispel some myths about refunds:

  • You received a refund so you don’t need to adjust your withholding for 2021 WRONG.  Go to irs.gov and use the Tax Withholding Estimator to determine if the amount being withheld is correct.  If you have experienced a life event – marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child or you no longer are able to claim a dependent previously claimed – you need to check your withholding by your employer. 

  • You are impatient so you think that if you call the IRS, you will get your refund quickerWRONG.  The best way to determine the status of your refund is online at irs.gov Where’s My Refund?  Calling someone will not expedite your refund.  Or, you can call the automated refund hotline at 1-800-829-1954, but don’t expect to speak to a person.  In either case, you must have information available as to the expected refund, your personal information and perhaps your taxable income amount.

  • You access Where’s My Refund? and it must be incorrect because there is no deposit dateWRONG.  This tool is updated once a day and it is possible that more information is needed to process your return.  If this is the case, you will receive a notice by mail.  Or, it could be that your bank is taking additional time to post the deposit to your account.  But, in any event, if you are waiting for a check to be received, it could take even longer for the check to be issued and mailed.  The fastest and safest way to receive your refund is always by electronic deposit to a bank account. 

  • The IRS messed up because your refund is less than expectedWRONG.  YOU could be the reason your refund is less than expected.  It could be that there are math error or mistakes on the return, you owe taxes from a prior year, you have other non-tax obligations such as state taxes, child support or student loans. There is always an explanation for a refund being less than expected.  A letter of explanation will be mailed with the adjustments made.  Be certain to review this letter carefully in the event that there is further action to be taken by you. 

The best place to start with inquiries about a refund is the Where’s My Refund? on irs.gov.  Hopefully, you will have received your refund and that won’t be necessary. 

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About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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