How to Find Out Why the IRS Has Held Back a Tax Return

Receiving a notice from the Internal Revenue Service is seldom a welcomed event. It is especially unwelcome when the notice informs a person that his refund is being held or seized. There are several reasons why the IRS seizes tax refunds, such as defaulted student loans and back child support. Determining why the IRS is holding a tax refund takes some investigation and specific pieces of information, but the reason can be found.

Step 1

Read the notice from the IRS carefully.The reason for the refund hold is stated within the notice.

Step 2

Locate the explanation code within the notice. Depending on the type of notice, the code appears in either the "Reason" column, the subject line or the body of the notice. Examples of explanation codes include "CP11," "CP21A" and CP22".

Step 3

Contact the IRS and ask for clarification about the explanation code if the explanation in the IRS notice is not clear or you disagree with the reason. There are several ways in which you can contact the IRS: via the toll free number included in the notice, by visiting a local IRS office or logging onto the IRS website and searching for the explanation code. Other pieces of information such as filing status, the social security number for the filer and the exact name of the primary tax filer will be needed for verification purposes.


Depending on the time of year, prepare yourself for a lengthy hold time when calling the IRS. Visiting a local office or using the website might generate faster results.


If offered an appeal opportunity, make sure to follow the directions as specified.