The first question most people have when they file their tax returns is “When will I see my refund?” That stands to reason, because who doesn’t want more moolah, especially in the aftermath of the financially intense holiday season? Here’s your brief primer on how long a tax return takes, what the refund process looks like and what’s going on if you don’t see your refund in the estimated timeframe.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund? | A Guide
According to the Internal Revenue Service, most tax refunds will be processed within 21 days. If you file by mail, however, this will likely be longer: between 6 to 8 weeks from the date the IRS receives the return (not when you mail it). These are the outside estimates, however. Often your refund will be processed much more quickly.
Note that there are exceptions to these timelines. According to TurboTax, “The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds that include Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15, 2017 regardless of what method you used to file your taxes.”
If therefore, you e-file your tax return at the first date that the IRS starts accepting returns (usually the third week in January), it may take longer than the maximum 21 days. Knowing this, you can rest easy that there isn’t anything additional you need to do; the IRS is just observing a standard waiting period.
There are other holdups as well. For instance, if your return includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, your return may take as long as 14 weeks. Your tax preparer should be able to tell you if your return contains forms or information that may hold it up for longer than usual.
What Is the Tax Refund Timeline?
The refund timeline is standardized and straightforward. Although your tax return won’t necessarily be filed and your refund delivered on that timeline, it’s still helpful to know your options.
You can start checking the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? tool within 24-48 hours of e-filing your return. In order to do so, you will need to have your social security number or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount on hand. On the same page, you can also download an app onto your phone to check your status on the go. While you can use the same tool to check your paper return, you may not be able to access any information for 4 weeks or so after mailing it.
Over time, your status will change from “Refund Received” to “Refund Approved” and then to “Refund Sent.” Note that you will not get your final refund date until the return has been received and approved. If you requested the IRS direct deposit your funds into an account, they may take between 1 and 5 days to show up. If you instead requested that a check be mailed, you may not see it for a few weeks.
Why Is Your Tax Refund Being Held Up?
— CNET (@CNET) December 16, 2017
In some cases, your specific tax situation or problems with your return may hold up the issuance of a refund. Some of the most common reasons for your return being held up include:
- There is an error on the return
- The return is incomplete
- You have been the victim of identity theft or fraud
- There is identity theft or fraud contained within the return
- The IRS is planning to audit you
- They simply need more time to review your return
Again, your return may also take longer if it contains one of the forms or credits that cause automatic delays. Be sure to ask your tax preparer if there are any reasons they see that your return may be held up. Although it’s never pleasant to wait on something you really need, if you’re at least informed about the process you will feel less anxious. This is also a good argument for going to a tax preparer you can trust, who will work with you year after year and get to know your case well.
Want more information on when will you get your tax refund? Watch this video from IRSvideos:
Your tax refund is normally processed within 21 days if everything is filed correctly. Filing through mail takes much longer than the normal process due to the time it takes them to receive your mail. There are also factors which may affect or delay your tax refund. This will depend on the tax situation you are in.
Do you have other tips worth sharing in processing your tax refund? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below.