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If you see IRS TREAS 310 on your bank statement, it could be your income tax refund. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Were in the final stretch of summer, yet many households are still waiting to get their tax refund via direct deposit or in the mail. If your money from the IRS is missing, be aware that the tax agency is working through a massive backlog of unprocessed tax returns that have piled up due to the pandemic. The IRS has also been busy sending stimulus checks, adjustments for 2020 refunds and child tax credit payments. 

You might also be waiting on another round of refunds for tax overpayment on 2020 unemployment benefits. Families could use that owed money to help with bills, debt and everyday expenses. The plus-up stimulus payments and the second advance monthly payment of the expanded child tax credit -- which went out on Aug. 13 -- may have given some families a buffer, but an overdue tax refund would be an even bigger help. 

Did your refund get lost in the shuffle? How can you find out? You can track your money using the online Wheres My Refund tool and check your unemployment refund status by viewing your tax transcript. Weve done the legwork below. To learn more on economic aid, here are ways to know if you qualify for child tax credit payments. If youre wondering about future stimulus payments or the latest infrastructure deal, we can tell you about that, too. This story is updated frequently. 

Why are tax refunds so late this year?

Because of the pandemic, the IRS ran at restricted capacity in 2020, which put a strain on its ability to process tax returns and created a backlog. The combination of the shutdown, three rounds of stimulus payments, challenges with paper-filed returns and the tasks related to implementing new tax laws and credits created a perfect storm, according to a National Taxpayer Advocate review of the 2021 filing season to Congress. 

The IRS is open again and currently processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence, but limited resources continue to cause delays. The IRS said its also taking more time for 2020 tax returns that need review, such as determining recovery rebate credit amounts for the first and second stimulus checks -- or figuring out earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit amounts.

Heres a list of reasons your income tax refund might be delayed: 

  • Your tax return has errors.
  • Its incomplete.
  • Your refund is suspected of identity theft or fraud.
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • Your return needs further review.
  • Your return includes Form 8379 (PDF), injured spouse allocation -- this could take up to 14 weeks to process.

If the delay is due to a necessary tax correction made to a recovery rebate credit, earned income tax or additional child tax credit claimed on your return, the IRS will send you an explanation. If theres a problem that needs to be fixed, the IRS will first try to proceed without contacting you. However, if it needs any more information, it will write you a letter. 

How to use the Wheres My Refund tool

To check the status of your 2020 income tax refund using the IRS tracker tools, youll need to give some information: your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status -- single, married or head of household -- and your refund amount in whole dollars, which you can find on your tax return. Also, make sure its been at least 24 hours (or up to four weeks if you mailed your return) before you start tracking your refund. 

Using the IRS tool Wheres My Refund, go to the Get Refund Status page, enter your SSN or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Submit. If you entered your information correctly, youll be taken to a page that shows your refund status. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, youll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with whether you filed electronically or on paper.

The IRS also has a mobile app called IRS2Go that checks your tax refund status -- its available in English and Spanish. Youll be able to see if your return has been received, approved and sent. In order to log in, youll need some information -- your Social Security number, filing status and expected refund amount. The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight, so if you dont see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the following day. Once your return and refund are approved, youll receive a personalized date by which to expect your money. 

Wheres My Refund has information on the most recent tax refund that the IRS has on file within the past two years, so if youre looking for return information from previous years youll need to contact the IRS for further help. 

IRS TREAS 310: What does this bank transaction mean?

If you receive your tax refund by direct deposit, you may see IRS TREAS 310 listed for the transaction. The 310 code simply identifies the transaction as a refund from a filed tax return in the form of an electronic payment (direct deposit). This would also apply to those receiving an automatic adjustment on their tax return or a refund due to March legislation on tax-free unemployment benefits. You may also see TAX REF in the description field for a refund.

If you received IRS TREAS 310 combined with a CHILD CTC description, that means the money is for a monthly advance payment for the enhanced child tax credit

If you see a 449 instead of 310, it means your refund has been offset for delinquent debt.

Does the IRS have a timeline for sending tax refunds?

The IRS usually issues tax refunds within three weeks, but some taxpayers have been waiting months to receive their payments. If there are any errors, or if you filed a claim for an earned income tax credit or the child tax credit, the wait could be pretty lengthy. If there is an issue holding up your return, the resolution depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return, according to its website

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. For example, with refunds going into your bank account via direct deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post the money to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you could be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. If you submitted a tax return by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks for your tax refund to arrive.

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How can I see the status of my unemployment tax refund?

If you think theres a delay in adjusting your tax return and getting a refund for the 2020 unemployment compensation, it might still be too soon to worry. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, implemented in March, excluded up to $10,200 in 2020 unemployment compensation from taxable income calculations for individuals and married couples who earned less than $150,000. That means taxpayers who treated their unemployment compensation as income are eligible for a tax break and could get a hefty sum of money back. 

In late May, the IRS began automatically correcting returns for those who overpaid taxes on those benefits, and the process is supposed to continue throughout the summer for the 13 million taxpayers who might be eligible. According to the IRS, some 8.7 million refunds have already been issued. That means that millions more will still have to wait a bit longer. 

However, its not easy to track the status of that refund using the online tools above. To find out when the IRS processed your refund and for how much, we recommend locating your tax transcript by logging in to your account and viewing the transactions listed. We explain how to do that step by step and what else you need to know here

What are the IRS tax refund messages I might see?

Both IRS tools (online and mobile app) will show you one of three messages to explain your tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if youre owed one.
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank via direct deposit or as a paper check sent to your mailbox. (Heres how to change the address on file if youve moved.)

Learn smart gadget and internet tips and tricks with our entertaining and ingenious how-tos.

Can I call the IRS about my tax return or refund?

The IRS received 167 million calls this tax season, which is four times the number of calls in 2019. And based on the recent report, only 7 percent of calls reached a telephone agent for help. While you could try calling the IRS to check your status, the agencys live phone assistance is extremely limited right now because the IRS says its working hard to get through the backlog. You shouldnt file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return. 

Even though the chances of getting live assistance are slim, the IRS says you should only call if its been 21 days or more since you filed your taxes online, or if the Wheres My Refund tool tells you to contact the IRS. Heres the number to call: 800-829-1040. 

How will my refund arrive?

There are a couple of reasons that your refund would be mailed to you. Your money can only be electronically deposited into a bank account with your name, your spouses name or a joint account. If thats not the reason, you may be getting multiple refund checks, and the IRS can only direct-deposit up to three refunds to one account. Additional refunds must be mailed. Also, your bank may reject the deposit and this would be the IRS next best way to refund your money quickly. 

Its also important to note that for refunds, direct deposit isnt always automatic. Some are noticing that like the stimulus checks, the first two payments for the child tax credit were mailed. Just in case, parents should sign in to the IRS portal to check that the angency has their correct banking information. If not, parents can add it for the next payment in September.

For more information about your money, heres the latest on federal unemployment benefits and how the child tax credit could impact your taxes in 2022.

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