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How Long Can The IRS Hold Your Refund For Review

Understanding the timeline for tax returns is crucial for every taxpayer, especially those who are expecting a refund. It’s not uncommon to wonder about the length of time the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might take to review your return and issue a refund. So, how long can the IRS hold your refund for review? Generally, the IRS can take up to 45 days from the day it sends you a notice to review and process your return.

Standard Processing Time

Typically, the IRS issues most refunds within 21 days of receiving your tax return. This timeline is applicable for both electronic and paper returns. However, this is only an average timeframe, and individual experiences may vary. Delays can occur due to a variety of reasons, including errors in the return, identity theft or fraud concerns, or a random selection for a review.

Review and Audit Process

If your return is selected for a review, you will receive a notice from the IRS stating that they’re reviewing your tax return. They might request additional information or documentation to support the figures on your return. From the date of this notice, the IRS has up to 45 days to complete the review. However, the entire process can take longer if they require extra documentation from you, or if you dispute their findings.

During this review period, your refund will be held. It’s crucial to respond promptly and accurately to any IRS requests for additional information to expedite the review process.

Potential Delays

While the IRS aims to complete reviews within 45 days, several factors can lead to further delays. These include:

  • Complexity of the review: If the IRS is reviewing multiple aspects of your return, it may take longer than usual.
  • Response times: If the IRS requests additional information and you delay in providing it, this can extend the review period.
  • Time of year: If your return is reviewed during the IRS’s busiest periods, such as near the tax filing deadline, this can also add to the review time.
  • Disputes: If you disagree with the IRS’s findings during the review, the process of resolving these disagreements can further delay the issuance of your refund.


While taxpayers eagerly anticipate their refunds, it’s essential to understand that the IRS review can take time. Although most tax returns are processed within 21 days, if your return is selected for review, the IRS can hold your refund for up to 45 days from the day it sends the review notice. In some cases, this process may take longer due to various factors. Engaging in open communication with the IRS and providing any requested information promptly can help ensure the review process is as swift and smooth as possible.

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