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Published:   |   Last Updated: October 24, 2023

Expediting a Refund

The IRS generally releases refunds within specified times. Generally, the IRS needs two weeks to process a refund on an electronically filed tax return and up to six weeks for a paper tax return.

What do I need to know?

The PATH Act made the following changes, which became effective for the 2017 filing season, to help prevent revenue loss due to identity theft and refund fraud related to fabricated wages and withholdings:

  • The IRS may not issue a credit or refund to you before February 15th, if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your tax return.
  • This change only affects returns claiming EITC or ACTC filed before February 15.
  • The IRS will hold your entire refund, including any part of your refund not associated with the EITC or ACTC.
  • Neither TAS, nor the IRS, can release any part of your refund before that date, even if you’re experiencing a financial hardship.

If you are facing a hardship, like a financial hardship (can’t buy medicine, can’t pay mortgage or rent and received an eviction notice, can’t pay utilities and got a shut off notice, etc.) and you need your refund sooner, the IRS may be able to expedite the refund. You will need to contact the IRS and explain your hardship situation.

The IRS may be able to expedite your refund

The IRS may be able to expedite your refund, if it is held up by a temporary backlog in processing — you may receive a letter or notice from the IRS telling you there’s a problem with your tax return or that your refund will be delayed. In that case, if you are experiencing a financial hardship, the IRS might be able to manually process your refund to get it to you sooner.

If you owe tax to the IRS from a prior tax year

If you owe tax to the IRS from a prior tax year, the IRS may be holding your refund to pay down that debt. But if you are facing a serious financial hardship and need your refund immediately, the IRS can consider not following its usual procedures of taking the refund. Instead, it may release and expedite part or all the refund to help with your hardship.

  • Note: The IRS can only expedite a refund held to pay an IRS debt. If the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) is offsetting your refund for debts other than federal tax debts like past due student loans, child support, state unemployment compensation, or other federally insured debt, even with a serious financial hardship the IRS cannot issue you a refund.



What should I do?

Request an expedited refund by calling the IRS at 800-829-1040 (TTY/TDD 800-829-4059).

  • Explain your hardship situation; and
  • Request a manual refund expedited to you.

The IRS will likely request documentation of your financial hardship such as copies of shutoff notices, eviction or foreclosure notices, etc., as well as other supporting information like a copy of your tax return with the refund claim.  Respond promptly to the IRS’s request

If you owe federal taxes, discuss payment options such as an installment agreement or an offer in compromise with the IRS.  You can find more information on our Get Help pages for these topics.


How will this affect me?

If you provide the information the IRS is asking for within the requested time, the IRS will immediately consider your request for an expedited refund.

Some things to consider if you’re seeking an expedited refund:

  • An expedited refund is limited to your hardship amount verified by the IRS. The IRS may not release all your refund.
  • If the IRS issues an expedited partial refund to help with your hardship, the process may delay your remaining refund.

Wait, I still need help

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.


Did you know there is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

The taxpayer Bill of Rights is grouped into 10 easy to understand categories outlining the taxpayer rights and protections embedded in the tax code.

It is also what guides the advocacy work we do for taxpayers.

Read more about your rights