What does Tax Topic 152 mean, and when will I get my tax refund?

desk with tax forms a calculator and cup of coffee

Tax Topic 152 is an IRS Reference Code that is often displayed on the “Get Refund Status” tool on the IRS website and simply confirms you are getting a tax refund. While you can read more details about Tax Topic 152 directly on the IRS website, this code does not require any additional action from the taxpayer.


How long does it take to get your tax refund?

The IRS reports that 90% of tax refunds are processed within the normal timeframe of 21 days. To receive your refund as fast as possible, the IRS recommends using e-file and direct deposit into a checking or savings account.

If you’d like an update on your refund status, you can use the IRS2Go mobile app or the “Get Refund Status” tool. These updates are available 24 hours after e-filing or 4 weeks after mailing in a return. You will need your social security number or TIN, your filing status, and your exact refund amount.

Tax refund delays

If you see Tax Topic 152 on the “Get Refund Status” tool (formerly known as the “Where’s My Refund” tool), you may also see a message about the ongoing tax return delays. Many taxpayers awaiting a refund have reported an update that reads, “Your tax return is still being processed. A refund date will be provided when available.”

If you see this message and you filed your 2022 tax return less than 21 days ago, there is no need for concern.

If it has been more than 21 days since you e-filed or if the “Get Refund Status” tool explicitly requests it, you should call the IRS for an update. But be aware that due to changes to the tax code and COVID-19 personnel challenges, the IRS phone systems are absolutely inundated (even more than normal). In 2022, the IRS received an average of over one million calls per day between January and mid-May.

Related reading: How To Claim The ERC Tax Credit

Why is my 2022 tax refund delayed?

The IRS highlights a few key reasons that a return may require manual review, and thus take longer to process than others:

  • Possible error or incomplete information
  • Suspected identity theft or fraud
  • Amended returns (May take 110 – 140 days to process)
  • Includes an application for a taxpayer identification number (TIN)
  • Requests for a refund of tax withheld on a Form 1042-S via Form 1040-NR (May take up to 180 days to process, from the later of the original due date of the 1040-NR return and the date you filed the 1040-NR)
  • Needs a correction to the Recovery Rebate Credit (May take 90 – 120 days to process)
  • Includes the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit using 2019 income (May take 90 – 120 days to process)
  • Includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation (May take up to 100 days to process)

In some of these cases, the IRS can make any edits or corrections without corresponding to the taxpayer. If so, they will correct the return internally and send an explanation letter. If this is not possible, however, the IRS will get in touch with you by mail. The agency will never call, email, or use social media to contact you.

What if there’s an IRS tax math error?

In rare instances, the IRS may issue you a tax refund for more or less than you expect to receive. Typically this is the result of a manual review and adjustment to your tax return, in which case you should receive a notice from the IRS explaining the discrepancy. If so, adhere to the instructions in the notice. If you do not receive a notice, you can contact the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

If the unexplained adjustment results in a refund that is larger than expected, hold off on cashing the check. Cashing it may result in interest due to the IRS. If the refund is less than expected, you can go ahead and cash the check. If any error is discovered, you will receive a check for the difference.

Unemployment tax refund update

The IRS issued an unemployment tax refund update on their COVID-19 delays announcement. They are still reviewing tax year 2020 returns for taxpayers who are due an unemployment tax refund due to taxes paid on unemployment compensation. Some taxpayers will receive refunds, and others will have the adjustment applied directly to their taxes due.

When will the IRS start accepting tax returns? When are tax returns due in 2024?

The IRS begins accepting tax returns on the last week in January of 2024, and the filing deadline for most taxpayers is April 15, 2024. If you file an extension, you will have until October 15, 2024, to submit your tax return.  

How can I receive my tax refund?

While direct deposit into a savings or checking account is the fastest way to receive your tax refund, there are a handful of alternative options:

  • TreasuryDirect – Used to buy U.S. Treasury securities
  • Savings Bonds – Used to purchase U.S. Series 1 Savings Bonds
  • Paper Check – Mailed to the address on your return
  • IRA / HSA / MSA / ESA – Deposited directly into select existing investment or savings accounts

Related reading: QBI Tax Deduction: The 7-Step Guide for Small Business Owners

How long are tax refunds taking?

The IRS expects that most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days if they file electronically, select direct deposit, and there are no problems with their return.  If you see Tax Topic 152, this indicates that your return is under processing or delayed for some reason. But it also means that no additional steps are needed from you at this time.

If your IRS Reference Code changes to Tax Topic 151, however, your return may be subject to an audit or held for further review. Usually, this means an IRS agent will examine your return manually and send you a letter if any adjustments are made.

If your IRS Reference Code changes to Tax Topic 148, the tax filer is being investigated under an IRS fraud alert, which requires an audit and an identity or fraudulent return review. This situation requires working directly with the IRS, who will mail a formal notice about the fraud alert, and can significantly delay your return and potential refund.

Other Tax Topics explained

  • Tax Topic 148 – Your tax return is being investigated under a fraud alert.
  • Tax Topic 149 – Your tax refund has been rejected.
  • Tax Topic 152 – Your tax refund is being processed. In most cases, you will receive your tax refund within 21 days.
  • Tax Topic 151 – Your tax return is under audit or manual review.
  • Tax Topic 160 – Your tax refund has been deposited.
  • Tax Topic 161 – Your tax refund has been mailed.

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