Direct deposit is the fastest way to get your tax refund from the IRS, but what if you accidentally entered the wrong bank account number on your tax return? This could cause serious delays to your refund – but it’s not impossible to fix.
Here’s what to do if your tax refund was deposited into the wrong account.
Should you use direct deposit for your tax refund?
The IRS encourages taxpayers to have their refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts. Direct deposit is faster and more reliable than getting a paper check in the mail. The IRS promises that more than 90% of direct deposit refunds will reach bank accounts within 21 days of accepting returns.¹
But the process isn’t perfect. Mistakes can happen when entering your bank account information, and fraudsters can take advantage of direct deposit to steal refunds. Don’t panic if your tax refund is heading for – or has already landed in – the wrong bank account! There are ways to resolve the issue and receive your refund.
Common causes of IRS refund deposits to the wrong account
There are several reasons your tax refund might get routed to the wrong savings or checking account. Let’s take a look.
1. Wrong account number on tax return
It’s easy to make a mistake when filling out important documents such as your tax return – there are so many forms! If you accidentally provide the government with the wrong bank account number when filing your taxes, your money could be delayed or even deposited into someone else’s account.
There are ways to fix the issue, but double-checking your account number is correct from the start will help avoid unwanted stress later on. If you’re paying someone to do your taxes for you, double-check to ensure they have your correct account number.
2. Wrong routing number on tax return
The same goes for your bank’s routing number when filling out your tax documents. Your routing number is just as important as your account number since it tells the IRS where to send your funds.
Messing up a single digit could derail how fast you receive your tax refund. Double-check the routing number for your bank when filling out your information.
Information Overload: Filing taxes means inputting a lot of information. In addition to your bank account and routing numbers, ensure you have correctly entered your address and Social Security number, have only claimed tax deductions for which you qualify, and have chosen the right tax bracket.
In other instances, a tax refund deposited into the wrong account can be the result of something more serious. For example, a common method of tax identity theft involves criminals getting the jump on taxpayers and filing a fraudulent return using their Social Security number or tax identification number.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network, there were 66,477 reports of tax-related fraud in the first three quarters of 2022, with a spike during the second quarter, when taxes were due.³
Suppose another person fraudulently files a tax return on your behalf. In that case, the IRS will accept the return in good faith and issue the refund to the person who filed the return – meaning they’ll deposit the money in the fraudster’s bank account, not yours.
Typically, a bank will reject a direct deposit that doesn’t match the name on the account. In that case, the bank should send the money back to the IRS, in which case you’ll receive your refund in the form of a paper check.
To protect yourself from identity theft and fraudulent activity during tax season:
- Keep your online information secure
- Take care not to file your taxes late
- Keep all your physical and electronic documents for your records
- Educate yourself about common money scams
- Choose a reliable and trustworthy tax preparer
To learn more about identity theft and tax refunds, check out the IRS’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.
How to avoid tax refund direct deposit errors
Having a tax refund deposited into the wrong account is stressful and, in some cases, irreversible. To keep this from happening, double– or even triple-check that your bank account information is correct before filing. If you’re paying an accountant to prepare your taxes, confirm they have the right numbers.
If you submit your tax return and later find out there’s an error, you can contact the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 to update the payment information if the refund hasn’t posted to their system. If it’s too late, you’ll receive a paper check in the mail – as long as it doesn’t end up in someone else’s account instead.
Getting a paper check can mean waiting six to eight weeks to receive your money, compared to the three-week wait for direct deposit. Paper checks also run the risk of getting lost, stolen, or destroyed in transit.
But when a paper check is your only option, it’s worth the wait (and the risk) if it means your refund reaches your hands and not someone else’s.
Pro Tip: You can view your refund status within 24 hours after the IRS receives your return or four weeks after mailing it in.
How to fix an incorrectly deposited tax refund
The best way to find out if your tax refund was deposited incorrectly is by using the IRS Where’s My Refund tool to monitor your refund’s progress. If you see that the IRS has marked your refund as deposited but the money isn’t showing up in your bank account, it’s time to figure out what went wrong.
Step 1: Contact the financial institution
A good place to start is contacting the bank or financial institution that accepted the refund, which you can see using the IRS Where’s My Refund tool.
Why wouldn’t you call the IRS directly about a refund? There’s a simple explanation for that.
The IRS will not issue refunds that are misdirected to another person’s bank account as a result of taxpayer or tax preparer error. If you contact the IRS about refunds that were incorrectly deposited because of your (or your tax preparer’s) mistake, they won’t be able to re-issue the funds to you.
If you call a financial institution, prepare a case to have the refund amount returned to you. Explain what happened and the error that led to the refund being deposited into the wrong account.
You may also need to provide documentation, such as a copy of your tax return, so keep a record of your tax documents just in case.
Step 2: Fill out an IRS form
If you haven’t had any luck after two weeks, you can file Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund. Submitting this form allows the IRS to reach out to the banking institution on your behalf to find out where the money went and attempt to recover it.
Banks have up to 90 days to respond to the IRS – and it can take even longer to get your deposit back. Put any plans you had for your refund on hold until you know when or if you’re getting your money back.
Step 3: Take legal action
If you have no luck after both of those efforts, the last option is to take legal action, which could end up costing you more money than your refund is worth. Talk to an expert and weigh your options before moving forward.
First-time filer? These are the top tax definitions you should know.
What to do with your tax refund
Let’s assume that you’re getting a refund (nice!) and it does correctly land in your bank account. What are you going to do with it?
Brainstorming ideas beforehand on how to use your tax refund can help you make the most of it. A tax refund can be a great way to get ahead financially: You may want to use that money for bills or to pay down debt, or save it to establish your emergency fund.
If you’re planning to buy a house, car, or another big purchase, you may consider a high-yield savings account to earn interest while you’re saving. Earning interest on a sizable tax refund can be a huge jump-start toward your savings goals.
Several factors can affect the timing of your refund after it’s filed. Wait until the money is available in your account before making bigger purchases.
How do I change my direct deposit information for my tax refund?
It’s possible to change or update your direct deposit information with the IRS for your tax refund; it’s just a matter of if your return has been completely filed already. If you haven’t filed your return, or if the IRS rejected your return, you can likely make adjustments using your tax software or on your tax form.
If you’ve already filed your return and it hasn’t posted to the IRS system, you can contact the IRS directly to edit your bank account information. If it has already posted, you’ll need to wait for your financial institution to reject the direct deposit, in which case the IRS will send you a paper check.
If you provided incorrect bank account information and the bank accepted it (and deposited it into someone else’s account), you’ll need to:
- Contact the bank and make a case to recover your funds.
- Fill out Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund if the bank has not responded within two weeks. The IRS will then reach out to the bank – and the bank has 90 days to respond.
- Take legal action if the bank still won’t release your refund. But hiring a lawyer may cost more than the actual value of your refund.
What if my tax refund is sent to a closed bank account?
If you realize too late that you have specified a closed bank account on your tax return, the IRS will attempt to process the direct deposit to that account. Your financial institution may reject the direct deposit, sending the funds back to the IRS.
At that point, the IRS will write you a paper check and send it to your last known address on file, which should be the address on your most recent tax return. That means you’ll still get your refund – it just might take significantly longer.
Why is my refund not showing up in my bank account?
If your tax return has been accepted and completed, it doesn’t mean it’s been deposited into your account. You can check the status of your refund with the IRS Where’s My Refund tool to see if the IRS has posted a deposit date for your return. It can take longer, as it depends on your financial institution’s turnaround time.
If you don’t see the refund on your statement within 14 business days, you can contact your bank to find out why the funds have been delayed. There’s always the possibility that you provided incorrect bank account information, so track the progress of your refund to spot potential issues.
Get your tax refund faster
Direct deposit is an easy, efficient, and IRS-approved way to get your tax refund. You can generally expect your refund to be deposited within three weeks of filing your tax return if your bank account information is correct. Electronic deposits are much safer than paper checks in the mail.
Getting your refund quickly and safely is great, but have you taken all the proper steps to ensure your refund is as big as possible? Before filing, spend some time researching tax credits and tax deductions to make the most out of your tax refund.