- If you’re still waiting on a tax refund, you may be earning interest on your unpaid balance, and the rate jumps to 6% on Oct. 1, according to the IRS.
- Typically, the IRS has 45 days to process your tax return and issue a refund before interest starts to accrue.
- However, "it’s taxable, so be prepared to report it,” warned Tommy Lucas, financial advisor at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo.
Millions of Americans still have tax returns in limbo as the IRS works to clear its backlog.
But there's a little good news if you're missing a refund: You may be earning interest on your unpaid balance, and the rate jumps to 6% from 5% on Oct. 1, according to the agency.
Typically, the IRS has 45 days to process your tax return and issue a refund before interest starts to accrue. Interest adjusts every quarter based on the federal short-term rate.
More from Personal Finance:
Reconciliation bill includes about $80 billion for the IRS
IRS says it will not increase audits on middle-income Americans
Tax return backlog is still 'crushing the IRS' as pileup exceeds 21 million
The interest is an annual rate compounded daily, meaning you divide the 6% rate by 365, explained Tommy Lucas, a certified financial planner and enrolled agent at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo in Orlando, Florida.
And with the average 2021 tax refund at more than $3,000, many filers would rather have their payment on time, Lucas said.
For perspective, in 2020, the IRS reported that the average refund interest check on 2019 federal returns was $18. Interest rates at that time were 5% during the second quarter, and 3% during the third quarter.
While the interest may offer some solace, there's a downside: "It's taxable, so be prepared to report it," Lucas said.
If you're paid interest for a delayed refund, you can expect to receive Form 1099-INT from the IRS, which must be included on your tax return, he said.
"If it doesn't cross-check, they're going to flag it and your return is going to get held up," Lucas said. "Don't forget about that interest because they will expect you to include it on Schedule B."
He said delayed tax refunds and interest payments speak to the importance of filing an error-free return to avoid processing delays.
As of Aug. 5, there were 9.7 million unprocessed individual 2021 tax returns, according to the IRS, with 1.8 million requiring "error correction or other special handling."