The answer to the question “How long does a tax refund take?” is more complicated than it seems. Here are a few frequently asked questions about the whole tax refund process.
In this article:
- What Is the Usual Turnaround Time to Get a Tax Refund?
- What Makes a Tax Refund Delayed?
- How Can I Receive Them?
- How Long Does a Tax Refund Take to Process?
- How Long Does It Take to Get My Tax Refund via Direct Deposit?
- How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund Check in the Mail?
- How Can I Get My Tax Refund Fast?
- Will I Get a Bigger Tax Refund in 2019?
- What Should I Do with My Received Tax Refund?
- Are There Any Other Vital Details to Know?
How Long Does a Tax Refund Take?
What Is the Usual Turnaround Time to Get a Tax Refund?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sends an income tax refund within 21 calendar days. Of course, the timeframe assumes your income tax return is accurate and free of any red flags or errors.
According to their website, the IRS processes the tax refund within the 21 calendar days timeframe approximately 9 out of 10 times. Interestingly, the IRS processes almost all the tax returns via direct deposit, about 92%.
It is important to note that the start date of your tax refund process differs on a case-to-case basis, as the process depends on how you send your tax returns. For people who do electronic tax filing, the IRS can provide the status of your tax return 24 hours after filing electronically.
For direct mail, it can take up to four weeks, due to both travel time and the IRS sorting out the paperwork.
If you want to talk to a person, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1954.
Once you confirm the status and availability of the tax refund, you can check whether the IRS has sent the tax refund. For those who filed for the tax return accurately and have no pending reviews or delays, the IRS sends the refund within 21 calendar days.
If you have applied or sent the tax documents via direct mail, you may have to wait an additional six weeks on top of the four weeks that the IRS needs to sort the paperwork to receive the tax refund in the form of a physical check.
But, certain circumstances can delay your receipt of the tax refund.
What Makes a Tax Refund Delayed?
Due to the complexity and ever-changing guidelines for taxes, people can easily make a few errors without knowing. There are two main reasons why there are delays for tax refunds.
Other examples of events or circumstances that can delay your tax refund include recent civil status change like marriage or divorce, qualifying for an Earned Income Tax Credit, and a spouse needing to file the taxes of an injured or incapacitated spouse.
The second reason relates more to human errors. Examples include an incomplete tax return or the IRS giving your tax return a red flag due to reports of identity theft or tax fraud. Typos can mean delays for you as well.
Lastly, stronger privacy and banking protection afforded by the law has made the timeframe of sending and receiving payments longer.
Sometimes, a taxpayer just gets unlucky; the IRS makes random tax audits, and you just happened to get the short end of the stick. But, if you answer the tax documents accurately and you have nothing to hide, the IRS can finish their job, and you can get your tax refund quicker.
How Can I Receive Them?
There are two main methods: you can opt for the faster direct deposit or wait for a physical check to arrive in your mail.
There are also some creative ways to grow and invest your tax refund. If you have chosen to receive the refund via direct deposit, you can have it routed to an account under your Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP IRA.
You can also buy U.S. Treasury bonds if you want to diversify to loan-based investments.
Other possible accounts that can receive your tax refund directly include a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA), a Health Savings Account (HSA), and Savings Bonds by the U.S. series.
How Long Does a Tax Refund Take to Process?
The tax refund timeframe is primarily influenced by the filing method and the payment receipt option chosen. To reiterate, the fastest method to receive the tax refund is by filing the tax return electronically and opting to receive the refund via direct deposit.
The longest method is through sending the tax documents via mail and opting to receive the refund check via mail. Of course, you can opt to file electronically and receive the check physically.
Another option is through filing the tax process via mail and then choosing to receive the refund via direct deposit. To make the tax refund process more manageable, a few tax refund tips can go the extra mile.
How Long Does It Take to Get My Tax Refund via Direct Deposit?
Assuming that there are no complications and delays, a tax refund check via direct deposit can be in your account within 25 calendar days. This timeframe includes both the 21 calendar days the IRS need to review and the usual 3 to 5 business days for banks to receive the check.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund Check in the Mail?
In a nutshell, the tax refund process via direct mail can take 2 to 3 months. Generally, the IRS receives and reviews the paperwork in 6 weeks for the tax status and approval.
You can then add 6 to 8 weeks for sending the check and receiving the refund in your mail.
How Can I Get My Tax Refund Fast?
Although tax refunds tend to take longer to receive, you can do something to shorten the waiting period. You need to secure W-2 forms from each job you had during the previous year, like in 2018.
Jobs you worked for a short period still count. If you had miscellaneous income, gambling winnings, or contract work, you must secure 1099 forms.
You need to provide other documents to the IRS as well, proving your qualifications for deductions and credits, such as for student loans or an interest-free loan. Once you prepare all your tax documents, file your taxes online.
In most cases, those with simple tax situations will have their data ready early, such as in the first two weeks of the tax season.
Will I Get a Bigger Tax Refund in 2019?
It depends on your tax record. Many taxpayers may experience no effect on their refund, especially if they made adjustments with their withholding tax within the tax year.
An average taxpayer usually has $1,000-$2,000 a year in tax savings, with the higher amount for individuals with children. If there were no adjustments made on the amount of withheld taxes from your paycheck, most likely, you’ll receive a bigger amount.
The bottom line is there are many factors that affect the tax refund and rate, so each taxpayer will have different results.
What Should I Do with My Received Tax Refund?
The tax refund anticipation is only normal for most taxpayers. The refund is all yours, and you have the freedom to use it to how you see fit.
You can use it for investment for long-term financial stability. You may also utilize the money to help bridge your day-to-day expenses.
Some even use the refund to pay their debts or just save money for future use. The important thing at the end of the day is to put your money to good use.
Are There Any Other Vital Details to Know?
The easiest method to check the status of your tax refund is with the Where’s My Refund section of the IRS. Just remember to have your Social Security or ITIN, the current filing status of your tax refund, and your exact refund amount at hand.
For some taxpayers, being too early can lead to delays. Under the law, the IRS must finish the processing and review of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or an Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) and other vital events after February 17, or the nearest business day.
Although it is important for you to know how tax refunds from IRS work and how the government processes them, you can always consult a tax professional to help you with your refund. These professionals have wider and better knowledge about the ins and outs of the tax processes, and they can assist you with the workaround of the IRS.
It may cost you some money to hire a professional tax expert, but it’s worth it to follow the correct procedure in claiming your refund. It’s also more convenient for you because you’ll be free from the burden of the paperwork for your tax preparation.
Now that you know the answer to the question “How long does a tax refund take?”, electronic filing of your tax refund and opting for direct deposit as the payment method can land your tax refund in your hands within 25 calendar days. If you choose to receive the refund via direct mail and you send your tax return and refund application through the mail as well, then expect the refund to arrive after 2 or 2 1/2 months.
It’s also essential to remember that tax refunds vary from person to person. Your refund may be different from your family members and friends.
What payment option will you choose for your tax refund? What were your struggles in processing your tax refunds? Let’s talk in the comments section below!
If you owe back taxes, visit taxreliefcenter.org for more information on tax relief options.
- How Federal Tax Refund is Calculated
- Avoid Forfeiting Your Past Tax Refund
- IRS Penalty Calculator: Breaking Down Your IRS Late Fees
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 8, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.