Why Are My Tax Returns Still Processing?

Filing taxes can be a stressful and time-consuming process, and waiting for your tax return can sometimes feel like an eternity. It can be frustrating to see that your tax return is still processing, especially if you filed months ago. So, why does this happen? Let’s explore some possible reasons why your tax returns may still be processing.

1. High Number of Filers: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) processes millions of tax returns each year, and the sheer volume can cause delays. If there is a backlog of returns to process, it can take longer for your tax return to move through the system.

2. Errors or Incomplete Information: If there are errors or missing information on your tax return, the IRS may need additional time to review and correct them. Common mistakes include incorrect Social Security numbers, mismatched names, or missing forms. These errors can lead to delays in processing your return.

3. Identity Theft Concerns: In an effort to prevent identity theft, the IRS has implemented stricter security measures. If the IRS suspects any fraudulent activity or identity theft, they may take additional time to verify your return before processing it.

4. Tax Return Reviews: The IRS randomly selects tax returns for review, regardless of whether there are any errors or discrepancies. If your return is chosen for review, it can delay the processing time. The IRS conducts these reviews to ensure compliance with tax laws and to maintain the integrity of the tax system.

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5. Paper Filing: If you filed your tax return on paper instead of electronically, it can take longer to process. Paper returns require manual handling and data entry, which can increase the processing time.

6. Refundable Credits: If you claimed refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), the IRS is required by law to hold your refund until mid-February. This delay is to allow the IRS to verify the accuracy of these credits and prevent fraudulent claims.

7. IRS System Updates: The IRS periodically updates its systems and software, which can cause temporary delays in processing tax returns. During these updates, the IRS may prioritize system maintenance over processing returns.

8. COVID-19 Pandemic: The ongoing pandemic has significantly impacted IRS operations. The IRS has faced staffing and resource shortages, leading to delays in processing tax returns. They have also been dealing with the distribution of stimulus payments, which has further strained their resources.


1. How long does it usually take for tax returns to be processed?
The IRS typically processes electronic tax returns within 21 days. However, the process may take longer depending on various factors.

2. Should I be worried if my tax return is still processing after 21 days?
Not necessarily. Delays are common, especially this year due to the pandemic. However, if your return has been processing for an unusually long time, you may want to contact the IRS to inquire about the status.

3. Can I check the status of my tax return online?
Yes, you can check the status of your tax return on the IRS website using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool.

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4. What information do I need to check my tax return status online?
You will need your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact amount of your anticipated refund.

5. Can I speed up the processing of my tax return?
Unfortunately, there is no way to expedite the processing of your tax return. Patience is key during this process.

6. Will calling the IRS help speed up the processing of my tax return?
Calling the IRS will not speed up the processing of your return. The representatives can only provide information about the status of your return.

7. What if I made an error on my tax return?
If you made an error on your tax return, the IRS will contact you to request clarification or corrections. It is important to respond promptly to their requests to avoid further delays.

8. What should I do if my tax return is still processing after a long time?
If your tax return is still processing after an extended period, you can contact the IRS to inquire about the status. They will be able to provide more information and guidance on how to proceed.

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