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IRS faces historic backlog: Explaining refunds, credits, stimulus payments, and direct deposits

The Internal Revenue Service is a mess right now. Not because of any insidious plot to keep money away from Americans who filed their taxes on-time or are eligible for tax credits, but because the IRS has been handling distributing payments throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Several rounds of stimulus checks, advances on tax credits like the Child Tax Credit – being made in monthly payments, as well as processing 2020 tax returns has created an historic backlog.

To date, more than 30 million people have not yet received tax refunds. Yet last week, thousands woke up to extra money in the bank as the IRS made deposits due to changes in tax law that rolled out in the last two stimulus packages.

If you want to know why a deposit was made there’s an easy way to determine it. The Taxpayer Advocate Service put out an update, breaking down the reference codes for the three kinds of payments that have been most common in the last month.

Your bank statement, whether online or paper copy, should display a code with the deposit from the IRS. It starts with ‘IRS TREAS 310’, then has one of the following codes:


You can also search your banking history to find when each of these deposits was made if you’re curious.

TAX REF represents refunds from the IRS, whether they are corrections or initial payments for refunds.

TAXEIP3 represents the third round of stimulus payments, which were valued at $1,400. Some of those payments have not yet been processed.

CHILDCTC represents advance payments on the Child Tax Credit. Those are continuing on the 15th of every month through December.

There’s more information available from the Taxpayer Advocate Service by clicking here.

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