Are you ahead of the game and already filed your tax return? You rock!
Now you're wondering “where's my refund?” We can help!
You're in the right place. The IRS isn't very straightforward with a lot of tax items, since there is so many gray and “up to interpretation” areas, but on the tax refund front they are a little less opaque. The trouble with taxes is that it's one area where most people into their special brand of legalese so it can be a big challenge.
As for when to expect your tax refund, it all depends on when you filed, how you filed, and how you asked for your refund.
If you have not filed your taxes yet, read on to see how to get your tax refund as quickly as possible. If you already filed your taxes, jump to this part to check on your the status of your refund and see the IRS refund schedule.
Table of Contents
Fastest Way to Get Your Refund
The fastest way to get your tax refund is to file your taxes electronically. That means using tax software (versus a paper form) and e-filing (versus mailing) your return, then requesting your refund as a direct deposit.
When the average tax refund is over three thousand bucks, it pays to get it as quickly as you can.
When you mail your return, the post office needs to mail it. Then the IRS needs to convert it into electronic form. (this can take four weeks!)
Assuming no errors, it'll take a few days to process your return.
If you request a check, they have to cut the check, mail it to you, and then you have to deposit it at the bank. All of those take time. A few days here, a few days there, four weeks here, yadda yadda, before you know it you're talking real time!
If you do everything electronically, from filing to deposit can be as fast as 21 days. The IRS has reported that 90% of tax refunds are issued within 21 days if you file electronically and opt for direct deposit.
E-Filing Is Safer Too
As an added bonus, if you're worried about identity theft and security (we all should), e-filing is the safest way to file your taxes.
When you mail a return, it has go through so many hands. Your postman has to pick it up, your local post office has to process it, it has to be moved from your post office to the IRS via the distribution system, and then someone at the IRS has to take it and process it locally. That's a lot of people. There's a 99.999999% nothing happens.
When you e-file, it goes through the internet in an encrypted form and no one sees it. Zero. Plus, the IRS will confirm they received your return. They don't do that if you mail it.
How to Check Your Refund Status
The IRS has a tool that you can use to find out your refund status – it's called Get Refund Status (clever name!) and you'll need:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your Filing Status
- Your Refund Amount (exact whole dollar amount)
If you mailed your tax return, you need to wait four weeks. If you e-filed, you need to wait just 24 hours. (see! e-filing is waaaaay faster)
That tool will then give you a status update and tell you a personalized date once the IRS has approved your refund.
IRS Refund Schedule
If the tool hasn't been updated yet or you have some future planning to do with that refund, but haven't filed yet, is well known.
The dates are based on when the return is accepted by the IRS. If you mail it, you won't know the exact date since they won't send you confirmation. If you e-file, then you'll know the exact date and time of the confirmation.
This schedule also depends on whether or not you have any special circumstances. For example, if you've been the victim of identity theft or fraud, your return can take longer to process. If your return is incomplete or contains errors, it will take longer to return.
Finally, the refund sent date depends on whether you ask for a Direct Deposit or a Paper Check. If you request a paper check, it is mailed four days after the Direct Deposit would have been processed. It will also take a few days for you to receive it.
The math of it is straightforward – just take the calendar week (Monday to Sunday is one week) your return is accepted and you will get your direct deposit sent on the 2nd Monday after that week. The mailed refund is sent that Friday.
Here's the schedule the IRS has shared for your taxation enjoyment:
|Return Accepted before 11 AM||Direct Deposit Sent||Paper Check Sent|
|Jan 29 – Feb 04||Feb 12||Feb 16|
|Feb 05 – Feb 11||Feb 19||Feb 23|
|Feb 12 – Feb 18||Feb 26||Mar 2|
|Feb 19 – Feb 25||Mar 5||Mar 9|
|Feb 26 – Mar 04||Mar 12||Mar 16|
|Mar 05 – Mar 11||Mar 19||Mar 23|
|Mar 12 – Mar 18||Mar 26||Mar 30|
|Mar 19 – Mar 25||Apr 2||Apr 6|
|Mar 26 – Apr 01||Apr 9||Apr 13|
|Apr 02 – Apr 08||Apr 16||Apr 20|
|Apr 09 – Apr 15||Apr 23||Apr 27|
|Apr 16 – Apr 22||Apr 30||May 4|
|Apr 23 – Apr 29||May 7||May 11|
|Apr 30 – May 06||May 14||May 18|
|May 07 – May 13||May 21||May 25|
|May 14 – May 20||May 28||Jun 1|
|May 21 – May 27||Jun 4||Jun 8|
|May 28 – Jun 03||Jun 11||Jun 15|
|Jun 04 – Jun 10||Jun 18||Jun 22|
|Jun 11 – Jun 17||Jun 25||Jun 29|
|Jun 18 – Jun 24||Jul 2||Jul 6|
|Jun 25 – Jul 01||Jul 9||Jul 13|
|Jul 02 – Jul 08||Jul 16||Jul 20|
|Jul 09 – Jul 15||Jul 23||Jul 27|
|Jul 16 – Jul 22||Jul 30||Aug 3|
|Jul 23 – Jul 29||Aug 4||Aug 10|
|Jul 30 – Aug 05||Aug 13||Aug 17|
|Aug 06 – Aug 12||Aug 20||Aug 24|
|Aug 13 – Aug 19||Aug 27||Aug 31|
|Aug 20 – Aug 26||Sep 3||Sep 7|
|Aug 27 – Sep 02||Sep 10||Sep 14|
|Sep 03 – Sep 09||Sep 17||Sep 21|
|Sep 10 – Sep 16||Sep 24||Sep 28|
|Sep 17 – Sep 23||Oct 1||Oct 5|
|Sep 24 – Sep 30||Oct 8||Oct 12|
|Oct 01 – Oct 07||Oct 15||Oct 19|
|Oct 08 – Oct 14||Oct 22||Oct 26|
Other Important Tax Dates for 2018
When can I file my tax return? The IRS announces when you can file your taxes and they said January 29th, 2018 for this year. You can start your return whenever you want but you won't be able to file them until the 29th. This is for a variety of reasons but primarily because they need to prepare their systems for all the tax law changes that happen each year. Also, other institutions aren't required to mail you forms, like 1099s, until January 31st.
When are taxes due? The date is April 15th, 2018 in most years but it can shift by a day or two if that day is a weekend or a holiday. In 2018, April 16th is a holiday in Washington D.C. so April 17th is the deadline for 2018. In 2017, the due date was April 18th because April 15th was a Saturday and April 17th was Patriot's Day.
If you request an extension, your taxes are still due on Tax Day even if your return isn't due until October 15th. This date also follows the weekend/holiday rule but the 15th in 2018 is a Monday.
If you claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, you won't receive your refund until February 27th. Federal law required the IRS to hold the refunds of anyone who claimed those two credits.
The Estimated Tax due dates for 2018 are April 15th, June 15th, September 15th, and January 15th of the next year. These dates do not change and are not related to your tax return so they don't experience any type of date shifting due to weekends or holidays. They're due on those dates every single year.
Don't Take a Refund Anticipation Loan!
A refund anticipation loan is a loan based on your federal tax refund. Lenders start offering this around tax season and they're typically very expensive, chock full of fees and a very high interest rate. If you need cash, this is often one of the most expensive ways to borrow money and something you should try to avoid at all costs. These are so bad that the IRS stopped providing information to these companies!
If you haven't filed your taxes yet, do so as soon as possible electronically! If all is well, you will be able to get your tax refund in as little as two weeks.
Companies will sometimes name these different things but always look at the fine print for interest rates and fees.
Still Haven't Gotten Your Refund?
You can call the IRS… but you need to wait 21 days if you filed electronically and six weeks if you filed via mail. (again, e-filing is so much faster)
You can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 (here's a link to the IRS website with this same number listed, for what it's worth, I wouldn't trust a random website either…).
Make sure you know your Social Security Number (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number if you don't have a SSN) and your filing status. Also have your prior-year tax return and the year you're calling about. Finally, if you have any notices or letters, have those too. This will help you confirm your identity so they can help.
When you do get your refund, make sure to use it on something financially responsible!