Earlier this week I realized I had over $2,000 missing from my bank account. It wasn’t stolen, I didn’t spend it, and I was determined to track my money down.

The money missing from my bank account was my tax refund, and a combination of unfortunate errors caused it to go missing. Losing a refund can be frustrating and difficult to fix. Here are a few tips to make for a smooth recovery process and avoid the mistakes I made.
Read: $1.1 Billion in Tax Refunds from 2007 Unclaimed

Before you even get started making calls and researching ways to track down your refund it’s important to have all the necessary information in front of you. Here is a list of helpful documents, or things you will need to know;

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Income Tax Return Forms
  • The exact amount your refund is; remember, state and federal taxes are different so make sure you have the refund amount solely for where you are calling
  • The date you mailed out your return
  • Whether or not your taxes were electronically filed

Figure Out What Went Wrong

If  you are able to pinpoint a reason for why your taxes didn’t show, this will help the process along. I happen to sign up for my refund to be deposited directly into my bank account and ended up giving the wrong numbers.

This would not have been a big problem as the IRS would just send the refund check to my address, but unfortunately the CPA I hired put my old mailing address on all my forms. So currently I have a large amount of money being mailed to Columbia, Missouri when I love in New York City. Before your CPA sends out your forms be sure to have the correct address. This may seem elementary, but people who moved around a lot in the past year can easily get things mixed up.

There are also numerous other errors that may delay your refund including the most common ones listed on the IRS website:

  • Using the wrong social security number
  • Putting the incorrect tax for your taxable income and filing status
  • Any errors based on: taxable income, withholding and estimated tax payments, Earned Income Credit, Standard Deduction for age 65 or over or blind, the taxable amount of social security benefits, and child and dependent care credit. Also, missing or incorrect identification numbers for child care providers.
  • Mathematical errors as well as putting withholding and estimated tax payments on the wrong lines.

In order to see a full list common and other errors check out the Tax Topics section of the IRS website.

Give The IRS a Call

Even if you haven’t figured out what went wrong you can still call the IRS, just make sure to have the aforementioned information ready. When I called, all they needed from me was my mailing address, social security number and full name to pull up my information. It didn’t take long to figure out the mistakes.

In my case, the wrong routing information caused the refund to come back to the IRS at which point they sent them out to the incorrect Missouri address on my taxes. These two missteps are definitely causing the process to become much more complicated. I have already updated my address and must wait to see if the IRS receives the check back in the mail. If they do not there are a couple of options I have;

If the refund has not been cashed and is just lost in the mail, they can cancel that particular check and reissue a new one. This process takes an additional 6-8 weeks. If the check has been cashed, the IRS will provide you with a copy of the back of the check so you can verify it is not your signature, along with this paperwork to fill out.

For help 1-800-829-0582, when asked for an extension, enter 362, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Avoid The Mistakes

Luckily, I have made sure to keep my spending in check before I received my refund. No matter how sizable your refund may be, it is still crucial to wait until you have received it so as not to accrue bad credit or financial hardship. One such couple that has run into trouble due to spending money before their tax refund is the Thomas couple, who bought a house before they got their $65,000 refund from the IRS.

It is important to track your tax refund and keep updated with the progress. Had I checked slightly earlier, I would’ve intercepted my checks going out to the wrong address. Another mistake I made was not double checking my tax documents before, or even directly after, they had been filed. This small move could have saved me loads of time.

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Ask a Question

  • Anonymous

    One more thing that should be mentioned when calling the IRS or your state tax department–You need to be patient and calm.  Patient, because you’ll spend a lot of time on hold, before and after you get through to an actual human being, and to negotiate through those horrible phone trees (“to go back to the previous useless options, press 8675309; to go forward to another set of useless options, press 6345789…”).  Calm, because it takes the person on the other end of the line TIME to verify that you’re authorized to discuss the case, find your information, and figure out what happened.

    Verifying your information is crucial, even if your address and bank account information is the same.  You never know what can happen during data entry.

    If you move, file Form 8822 with the IRS immediately.  It sounds daunting, but it’s just a change of address form.  If you don’t, they’ll send everything to your old address until you file again.