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What is Tax Topic 152? What it Means For Your Refund

If you’re checking the status of your tax return for refund information through the IRS website, you might have come across IRS Tax Topic 152. Tax Topic 152 is a placeholder that the Internal Revenue Service uses when your federal tax return processing is expected to go beyond the normal time frame.

Tax Topic 152 doesn’t mean that you have to do anything at this time, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t get a refund. It simply means you may need to check back for additional information at a later point.

This article will cover:

  • What is Tax Topic 152?
  • What topics Tax Topic 152 discusses
  • How you might see Tax Topic 152 when checking your tax return status
  • What you can do to ensure smooth processing of your return

Let’s start with some background information on what tax topics are.

What are tax topics?

The IRS website contains a variety of posts with general information about taxes for individuals and for businesses. These posts generally fall under some of the following categories:

  • Where you can get help from the IRS
  • IRS procedures
  • The IRS collections process
  • General filing information
  • Forms
  • Income, deductions, and credits

Tax Topic 152 happens to fall under IRS procedures.

What is Tax Topic 152?

Tax Topic 152 is also known as Refund Information. This is the page that the IRS will refer you to if your tax return is taking longer than 21 days. 21 days is the normal timeframe that the IRS says they process most tax returns.

There can be numerous reasons why your tax refund is taking longer. Generally speaking, the status of your return processing depends on a couple of key factors:

  • Whether there is something specific about your return that warrants additional steps or further review.
  • Whether the IRS has a backlog of tax returns to process

During the coronavirus pandemic, the IRS experienced a historic backlog. This especially impacted paper return processing, since most IRS representatives had to work from home during the shutdown.

Many people experienced significant delays in receiving their refund check, even though their tax return was properly filed.

What topics are covered under Tax Topic 152?

Tax Topic 152 covers a wide variety of topics related to your tax refund. Below is a summary of what you would find if you were to look this up on the IRS website.

Refund timing

Here, you’ll see the reference about the IRS’ normal timeframe of 21 days. If your refund check hasn’t posted, you can contact to get additional information under the following circumstances:

  • It’s been at least 21 days since your tax return was filed electronically
  • 6 months or more have passed since you fled a paper return
  • The Where’s My Refund tool tells you that an IRS representative can give you more information over the phone

Common issues

This section also highlights some of the more common issues that cause a delay in processing.

  • Filing a paper return
  • Filing an amended return. Normally, they take about 16 weeks to process, but the IRS now cites processing times closer to 20 weeks.
  • Filing an injured spouse claim. You can also find additional information under Tax Topic No. 203-Reduced Refund.
  • Filing a tax return with an ITIN. If you used an ITIN, or individual taxpayer identification number, instead of your Social Security number when filing your tax return, you may need to refer to Tax Topic 857-Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for more information.
  • If you filed Form 1040-NR and requested a refund. You may need to allow up to 6 months for processing if you’re expecting a potential refund.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and additional child tax credit refunds warrant separate processing. You can use the IRS refund status tool to check your refund status.

Refund type

The vast majority of taxpayers e-file their tax returns and receive refunds through direct deposit. While you can still opt for receiving a paper check and filing a paper return, the IRS stresses that paper returns will add additional time to your return processing.

You also have your refund amount issued in one of the following ways:

  • Via savings bonds. You can directly purchase savings bonds from the United States government through your TreasuryDirect account.
  • Into your IRA. You can deposit into your traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP-IRA, subject to IRA contribution restrictions.
  • Bank account
  • Health savings account or Archer MSA
  • Coverdell ESA

Options to split your refund

You can split your refund to go into as many as three separate accounts. You would allocate your return across multiple accounts using IRS Form 8888-Allocation of Refund.

However, this only applies if you are NOT filing an injured spouse claim. Here are some additional tips:

  • The account should be in your name, your spouse’s name, or a joint account
  • Do not arrange to have your refund deposited into your tax preparer’s account. NOTE: It is actually illegal for your tax preparer to make this type of arrangement, and should be considered a red flag if asked.
  • Any direct deposit must be at least $1.00 or more.

Where you can find the status of your refund

You can check the status of your tax refund on the Where’s My Refund tool or download their free mobile app, IRS2Go, on either the Apple store or Google Play.

General information about your refund

The Where’s My Refund? tool allows you to review information for the current tax year and the previous two years. Taxpayers looking for the status of their refund or additional information for an earlier tax return might need to request a copy of their tax transcript or view their online account.

You should see one of 3 statuses when you check the Where’s My Refund website tool:

  • Return Received
  • Refund Approved
  • Refund Sent

As soon as your tax return is received and the refund is approved, you should received a personalized refund date. However, if you’re checking on the status of an amended return, you’ll need to go to the Where’s My Amended Return tool.

Contact information

If you do not have internet access, you can also call:

  • Refund hotline: (800) 829-1954
  • Amended return: (866) 464-2050

What to do if your refund is different from what you expected.

If your refund is larger than you expected, do not spend it! You should immediately call the IRS at: (800) 829-1040 until you understand the discrepancy. Also, contact your bank or financial institution if you need to put an alert on your account. If you receive a notice, follow the instructions.

If your refund is smaller than expected, you should receive additional information explaining why the refund was different.

Answers to common questions

There is also a link to another page about frequently asked questions that come up during tax season.

How can I avoid having Tax Topic 152 pop up?

If the IRS is working through a backlog of tax returns, or if you are required to follow certain procedures (like filling out an injured spouse claim), you might not have much control over the refund process.

However, there are things that you can to to help lower the odds that any delays are due to your tax return:

File electronically

If you don’t file electronically, you should do so, for the following reasons:

Security: Not only does electronic information move more quickly than paper, but it is also more secure. Mailing a tax return means that your private information is now subject to identity theft via the postal system.

Conversely, the IRS e-file system is the fastest way to securely deliver your tax return to the IRS. You also receive fast confirmation that your return was received. Within several business days, you should have an e-file acceptance notification through the system.

Accuracy: One of the most common reasons that tax filers experience frustration is because their paper returns have accuracy-related errors. Having electronic filing software can help you cut down on the mistakes that go into your tax return.

Enroll in direct deposit

In today’s day and age, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have direct deposit for your tax refund. If you insist on a paper check, then you can expect to wait longer.

Ensure your tax return contains accurate information

Software can help. Here are some common accuracy-related mistakes the IRS wants taxpayers to be on the watch for:

  • Name, address, Social Security number
  • Filing status
  • Having the correct dependent information
  • Proper calculations

Most of these can be addressed through software, but here is a more encompassing list of accuracy-related mistakes the IRS often catches.

Have a tax expert do your tax return for you

If you don’t have a tax professional file your tax returns, you may want to consider it. Not only does an accountant have access to the right software, they keep up to date on all the changes to the IRS tax code and other necessary information to keep on top of your tax situation. That’s not a bad thing.

Conclusion

If you see a reference to Tax Topic 152, it’s not the end of the world. Many times, this is simply a generic reference code indicating that your refund might take a little more time than usual. In some instances, you may see it as a call to take action by hiring a tax professional.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about other tax-related topics, please check out our tax planning archives!