Let's face it, for many of us filing our tax return can be stressful.

We understand that. But it doesn't have to be! Take a few minutes to better understand the Iowa filing process and maybe doing your taxes will drop from your “most stressful things” list.

Let's start by boiling it down to three simple, but important steps.

The more you understand about providing correct information, the more efficiently we are able to serve you. So, let's work together for a good outcome.

Step 1 - You File
Step 2 - We Review
Step 3 - Get Your Refund
Step 1

File Your Return

You can file through a tax preparer, on paper, or through a 3rd-party software vendor.

Filing yourself? Start with Filing an Income Tax Return under I am... An Individual. For most individual taxpayers, this page contains all the information you need, including links to forms, expanded instructions, and Common Mistakes to avoid to ensure a quick review of your return.

Fast tax fact: The Department processed over 1.73 million individual income tax returns in calendar year 2021. But the Department does more than your income tax return, there were over 321,000 withholding tax returns and 398,000 sales and use tax returns filed during calendar year 2021.

Step 2

We look at your information

(and keep it safe)

It's our job to collect the right amount of tax and provide you the correct refund, if it is due. How we do that has become increasingly complex because of tax refund fraud. Cyber criminals attempt to file fraudulent tax returns using stolen personal information from Iowa taxpayers. The good news is we take your security seriously. We have to. It's our job.

Fast tax fact: Bad news for Cyber criminals. In 2021, the Department identified $26.2 million in fraudulent or erroneous refund claims. This included $14.3 million in claims stopped by our fraud review.

Tax returns are reviewed for accuracy to ensure refunds go to the right taxpayer in the correct amount and stay out of the hands of criminals. This includes a combination of automated and manual reviews. Here are the key items for our review process:

  • Is it complete?
    Remember to answer all questions and sign the form, if you are filing by paper. If filing jointly, make sure you both signed the form.

  • Is it accurate?
    Since we need to make sure it's really you who is filing, double-check your personal information (name, address, and social security number), as well as your tax calculations.

  • Is there more to it?
    We may find our calculations are different than yours. Or that you have an outstanding balance owed to another public agency. Or we simply have a question.

If we have a question, we will contact you by letter asking for more information. If you get a letter from us, respond to the contact included on the letter with the requested information so we can complete the review.

Unless you receive a letter from us, there is no action you need to take for your refund to be processed.

While our initial review process is thorough, there are instances when an even more comprehensive review needs to be done. Sometimes this occurs even after a refund has been issued.

Fast tax fact: In 2021, the Department identified $26.2 million in fraudulent or erroneous refund claims. This included $12.0 million in mistakes found on returns.

Step 3

Get your refund

The Department’s goal is to process refunds within 30 days. You can check on the status of your refund at Where's My Refund which is updated in real-time.

Curious about those status messages and details within Where's My Refund?

  • Return Receipt Date - Confirms the day we received your tax return.
  • Return Received - Your return has been received by the Department. It can take a few days before it is moved to Processing. Returns are processed in the order they were received.
  • Return Processing - Department Staff are working through your return. This work can take a few days to verify completeness.
  • Return in Review - This is a normal step for every return to verify accuracy of information, validate identity, and confirm correct calculations.
  • Return Preparing for Payment - Your refund is now being processed for payment. We will issue your refund by check or direct deposit within the next 10 - 15 days. After it is issued, this message will update to reflect the day it was sent to you.
    • Return Offset - If you have an outstanding debt, part or all of your refund may be held to pay that debt. Your refund will then be referred to the government agency that has certified that you have an unpaid bill. They can take 45-60 days to apply or release your refund.
  • Refund Issue Date - The date your refund check was mailed or direct deposit was initiated.

This is the same information that is available to our phone representatives so there is no need to call unless the status message directs you to.

Fast tax tip: Direct deposit can be the most convenient way to receive your refund. This option is available to most taxpayers, whether you file electronically or on paper.
Please note, if you have an outstanding balance owed to another public agency,
your refund may be used to pay the amount due before you receive any remaining refund.

Resources

STAY INFORMED

QUESTIONS? CONTACT US

515-281-3114 or 800-367-3388

Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Central Time

IDR@iowa.gov