An Overview of IRS Form 3911 Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund

IRS Form 3911

Filing an income tax return is hardly something that most of us look forward to doing each year. But for many of us, there’s a silver lining of getting a tax refund from the IRS. Unfortunately, this tax refund payment doesn’t always arrive as expected. Maybe it gets lost, stolen, or sent to the wrong person. 

Many of the potential solutions to help you get your tax refund require you to first figure out what happened to it. One way to go about doing this is to complete IRS Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund. To help you out, here is a guide to this form. 

What Is IRS Form 3911?

IRS Form 3911 is the form you complete to start a refund trace. A refund trace is where the IRS tracks down the refund payment to figure out what happened to the check or direct deposit you never got.

One thing to keep in mind about Form 3911 is that it’s only to be used to figure out what’s happened to an already authorized refund that hasn’t been received or has been lost, stolen, or destroyed. You wouldn’t complete this IRS form if you disagree with the IRS concerning the refund amount or your eligibility to receive the refund.

When Should I Use IRS Form 3911?

As mentioned earlier, you only use Form 3911 when you never received your tax refund or the check got destroyed, lost, or stolen. You can also use it if you received a paper refund check but you waited too long to deposit or cash it. IRS refund checks are usually only valid for one year. 

If you’re thinking about completing Form 3911 because you never got your tax refund payment, it’s a good idea to first contact the IRS to figure out the status of your refund.

The IRS has an online tool called “Where’s My Refund?.” This lets you check the status of your income tax refund within 24 hours after e-filing it or four weeks after mailing a paper return to the IRS. The information provided by this tool gets updated once a day, and you’ll need the following information to check on your refund’s status:

  • Your Social Security number or taxpayer ID number;
  • Your tax filing status; and
  • The exact refund amount on your tax return.

If you’d rather use an app, you can the IRS’ IRS2Go mobile app. Both the online tool and the app will allow you to confirm whether the IRS has finished processing your return and issued your tax refund. Finally, you can call the IRS to check on the status of your tax refund. You may call 1-800-829-1954 and use the automated system or call 1-800-829-1040 to speak with an IRS agent.

If the above methods indicate the IRS has frozen your refund or selected your return for a review (for example, with reference 1242 or Tax Topic 152), you don't need to start a refund trace. You just need to wait. However, if the IRS issued your refund (but you never got it), then you should consider using Form 3911 to ask the IRS to track down your missing refund. But before you do, make sure you do two more things.

First, make sure enough time has passed for your payment to have arrived. If you’re expecting your refund through direct deposit, it may take up to 21 days for the direct deposit to hit your bank account after the IRS receives your income tax return. If you’re expecting a refund paper check through the mail, then your paper check could take up to six weeks from the date you mailed your income tax return to the IRS.

Second, if you hired someone to prepare your taxes for you, ask them for guidance on what you should do. They may have information to explain the delay and can double-check your tax return to make sure there wasn’t a mistake with your direct deposit or mailing information.

How to Fill Out Form 3911

IRS Form 3911 is a relatively simple form, as far as tax documents go. The first part at the top will be filled out by the IRS if they’re sending you the form to complete. If you’re completing Form 3911 without having first contacted the IRS about a refund trace, then you’ll just put “N/A” in those blanks and start with Section I.

You should be able to complete most of Form 3911 yourself without issue, but there are a few pointers to remember when you complete the form:

  • If your refund comes from a tax return you filed jointly with your spouse, then you need to have them sign Form 3911 in addition to you.
  • When signing Form 3911, don’t use a digital or electronic signature. The IRS prefers a real signature and will sometimes reject an otherwise properly completed Form 3911 because it wasn’t physically signed by the taxpayer.
  • Be sure to send the completed form to the correct address or fax number based on where you live. If you don’t, it will delay the processing of Form 3911 and might even prompt the IRS to reject your filing and have you send the form again to the proper location.

What Happens After Submitting Form 3911? 

The IRS will complete its investigation and confirm the status of your missing refund check or direct deposit. If they confirm your missing check wasn’t cashed, the IRS will cancel it and then send you a new one. 

If it turns out someone else cashed your refund check, then the Bureau of Fiscal Service will get in touch with you and explain how you can complete a claim package. This will determine if your signature appears on the cashed check. If it wasn’t your signature, then you will receive a new check. If it was your signature, you won’t be eligible to receive a new check.

If there was a mistake or error with your direct deposit, the nature of that mistake will determine what happens next. When the direct deposit doesn’t go through because of a missing or incorrect account or routing number, the IRS will send you your refund by paper check. If your bank rejects the direct deposit, that too will result in the IRS sending you a paper check.

If you provided the IRS with someone else’s account or routing number on accident and they received your tax refund, then resolving this issue will be between you, the bank, and/or the account owner who received your tax refund by mistake. This may require you to take civil legal action if the other bank or account owner refuses to forward the refund to you.

Can I Use Form 3911 to Track Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Checks?

Yes, you can. While Form 3911 is for tax refund traces, you can also use it for coronavirus economic impact payment (EIP) traces. Most taxpayers were eligible for up to three EIPs. The first two payments were sent out in 2020 and early 2021. The third EIP was sent out between March 2021 and December 2021.

One major difference when completing Form 3911 for an EIP trace versus a tax refund trace is that at the top of the form, you’ll have to identify the specific EIP you’re asking about. Also, remember that if you’re asking about multiple payments, you’ll need a separate 3911 form for each one. Finally, towards the bottom of Section I, you’ll leave the “Date Filed” section blank because you’re not referencing a specific tax return to obtain your missing EIP.

Is Form 3911 the Only Way to Track Down a Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed Refund?

Yes and no. If you filed an income tax return jointly with your spouse, then Form 3911 is your sole method of starting a refund trace. If you filed your income tax return using any other filing status (such as single, head of household, or married filing separately), then you can ask the IRS to start a trace by telephone by calling 1-800-829-1954 to use the automated system or 1-800-829-1040 to speak with an IRS agent.

In some cases, the IRS may make changes to your tax return, and those changes may decrease the amount of your tax refund. However, if this happens, the agency will send you a notice. For example, the IRS may send you LT-4800 if it disallows a credit and reduces your refund, but then, you should receive the rest of your refund shortly after this notice.

The IRS will also send you a notice if it seizes your refund for unpaid taxes. For instance, the agency may send you Notice CP49 if it takes some or all of your refund for back taxes.

Note, however, that if you recently changed addresses, the IRS may have sent your notice to the wrong address. 

Still Have Questions About Tax Form 3911?

Although Form 3911 is fairly straightforward, you might still need some help to fill it out. Additionally, if after sending Form 3911 to the IRS, you still haven’t figured out what happened to a missing refund or economic impact payment, you may want to consider talking to a tax professional. 

TaxCure can help you find the right one who’s also in your area. All you need to do is click on the “Find a Local Tax Pro” button at the top of this page.

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