IRS Tax Topic 152: Why Is Your Refund Delayed? + FAQs

Picture of Lana Dolyna, EA, CTC
Lana Dolyna, EA, CTC

Senior Tax Advisor

Although 90% of tax refunds are issued within three weeks, many people find that their tax refunds are delayed for an extended time period and are told to reference Tax Topic 152. If your tax return takes longer than you expect, this topic talks about what you can do to check the status of your refund and tells you how to contact the IRS to ask about the status of your money.

What is IRS Topic 152?

The IRS publishes answers to many common tax-related questions. Tax Topic 152 addresses the question of delayed income tax returns. In addition to publishing a tax topic on the subject of delayed returns, the “Where’s My Refund” tool allows filers to check the status of their refund, as little as 24 hours after filing their return.

Possible Reasons for Tax Topic 152

If your tax return is delayed, the IRS may refer you to Tax Topic 152 to understand what’s happening. There are several reasons why you may have received this referral, which will depend on your situation and annual return.

Your refund includes Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or Additional Child Tax Credit

If you requested an EITC because your family income is low- to moderate, or an Additional Child Tax Credit, there may be a processing delay. The IRS hopes to send out these returns by March 1, but will have personalized refund dates listed online.

You filed an amended return

While the IRS generally issues refunds within 21 days, if you filed an amended return, it may take up to 16-20 weeks to receive your tax refund.

You filed an injured spouse claim

People who aren’t responsible for debts their partner owes to the IRS, but file joint tax returns with their partner can request their portion of a tax return separately from their partner’s. This is known as an injured spouse claim. These claims can take extra time to process, but prevent the IRS from imposing additional burdens on a spouse who doesn’t owe money.

You filed a return using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

Everyone who files taxes needs to have an appropriate identification number on their documents. Most people will use their social security number (SSN) as their identification number. Resident and nonresident aliens who file a tax return will need to use an ITIN on their return. This can create additional processing time with the IRS.

You filed a US Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return

Nonresident aliens doing business in the US who file an income tax return on Form 1040-NR may need to wait up to six months to receive their tax refund.

Your tax return contained an error

Your tax refund could be delayed because of an error on your tax return.

If this is the case, don’t feel bad. The IRS has a list of common errors people make when filing their individual tax return. Moving forward, double-check your form to make sure everything is right the first time.

What Should I Do?

If you’ve received a referral to Tax Topic 152, don’t panic! Read carefully through the topic, and figure out which situation applies to you. Make a list of questions for the IRS if you need more clarification.

Remember that if your account lists Tax Topic 152, the IRS doesn’t need anything from you at this point. They are still processing your return.

When Happens After Tax Topic 152 Processing?

After the IRS finishes processing your return, two things may happen. The best scenario is if the IRS approves your return and sends your refund.

Another potential outcome is the IRS placing your tax return under review. If this happens, Tax Topic 151 will appear on your account. In this situation, you’ll receive a letter from the IRS explaining the changes to your return. These may include adjustments or collection activities.

If you’re concerned about being audited, Tax Shark offers clients tax audit defense. We represent clients facing audits from the IRS and handle all correspondence and communications through the process, letting our clients rest easy during the process.

How Can I Avoid Future Delays?

The best way to avoid delays with your IRS tax return is to file your paperwork correctly the first time. In January and February, keep a file for your W2s, 1099s, and other tax forms as they come in. Don’t guess at any numbers. Instead, review your paperwork carefully and think about hiring a tax professional to review and file your return.

People who e-file their tax returns and opt for direct deposit will receive their refunds the quickest. This can be a good option to keep in mind to make sure you receive your refund as soon as possible.

How to Get a Hold of the IRS

To ask questions about your tax refund and check on the status of your tax return, here are some ways you can contact the IRS and speak with an agent.

Call the IRS

If you can’t find the information you need online, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1954 for information on your refund, or at 866-464-2050 to talk about an amended refund. When you call, have your personal identifying information handy, as well as any notices you’ve received from the IRS.

Visit your local IRS office

You can make an appointment at your local IRS office to speak with a local IRS representative. They may be able to give you additional insight into the status of your refund. When you go, make sure you bring your ID.

The Taxpayer Advocate

You can also contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service. This is an independent agency within the IRS that acts as the voice of the taxpayer). If you’ve tried to contact the IRS and haven’t had any success, you can reach out to your local Taxpayer Advocate. Each state has at least one Taxpayer Advocate who is separate from the local IRS office. They may be able to help you determine the status of your refund.


Here are the answers to some common questions about IRS Tax Topic 152.

If your tax refund is taking a long time, you can follow the recommendations in Tax Topic 152 by checking the status of your refund online. You can also call the IRS at 800-829-1954, or at 866-464-2050 for an amended refund, to check the status of our paperwork.

Receiving a notice to refer to Tax Topic 152 might be a sign that your refund is being delayed. If you receive this notice, you can use the IRS “where’s my refund?” tool to check on the status of your refund.

Generally, tax returns take 21 days to process and have refunds issued. If you have an amended return, it can take up to 20 weeks to process your paperwork.