While the IRS attempts to send tax returns out in a timely manner, there are sometimes barriers that get in the way. Here, the accounting professionals at Fitzpatrick, Leary & Szarko explain some of the common issues that delay tax returns, and how to increase your chances of receiving your return in a timely manner.

On average, the IRS takes 21 days to process and issue a return. While most Americans should have already received their tax return, some may still be anxiously waiting. A long delay may allude to more serious concerns, but there are many factors that could cause a delay for your tax return.

Errors in Filing or Fraud Concerns

One of the most common reasons for a delayed return is a filing containing errors or lacking critical information. The IRS must rectify these issues, and may need to contact you or other institutions to correct or fill in information, causing a delay in issuing a return. When completing your taxes, always complete them fully, and direct any questions or concerns you have to a tax professional. Never knowingly insert incorrect information into your tax filing; tax fraud is a serious crime and the punishments are steep.

In some cases, the fraud may have been committed by another individual, often through identity theft. If the IRS detects that multiple returns have been filed under your Social Security number, they will need to establish which one is legitimate. Always keep personal information, including your Social Security number, secured. If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft or tax fraud, the IRS provides an affidavit to complete notifying them of the issue.

Form 8379 Considerations

Injured Spouse Allocation Form 8379 is filed by those who filing status was married, filing jointly, in situations where one spouse is legally liable for a debt, such as alimony, back-taxes or student loan debt, but both spouse’s return funds are withheld to pay the debt. This form essentially releases the “injured spouse” (the one who is not legally liable) from having their return withheld. While this is very helpful, it can take up to fourteen weeks to process. If you or your spouse are in such a situation, it is advisable to file your return as early as possible.

Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit

If you have filed for either of these credits, the IRS is required by law to hold this portion of your tax return until February 15th, but taxpayers may not see their return until February 27th or later, depending on other circumstances regarding their return. In this instance, there is nothing to do but wait patiently, and always request that your return is sent via direct deposit, which decreases wait times dramatically—mailed returns can take six weeks or longer to process, as well as send out a check.


Many of the headaches of delayed tax returns and other tax concerns can be prevented through the help of a CPA or other tax consultant. At Fitzpatrick, Leary & Szarko, our dedicated professionals can assist you through the entire tax process, and help make the process more efficient. We urge you to contact us today.