Although most people dread filing taxes, claiming a refund certainly sweetens the deal. What do you need to know to expedite the process and avoid unnecessary delays?
When Can I Expect My Refund?
The fastest way to receive your refund is to go completely paperless. If you file your return electronically and elect for a direct deposit, the IRS will typically deposit your refund within 21 days of filing your return.
If you e-file but request a paper check it can take about a month until you see your refund, but if you file a paper return and request a check you are looking at two months or more before you hold your refund check in your hands.
How Can I Check My Refund Status?
The most convenient way to check your refund status is by using the IRS Where's My Refund? Tool, or the IRS2Go mobile app if you are using a mobile device. To use the tool, you will need some basic information about your return:
- Social Security number or ITIN
- Filing status
- Exact refund amount
Typically, you will be able to view your status within 24-48 hours after e-filing your return. If there are no issues, the refund will be approved within another couple of days and then paid within 21 days. Allow another few days for it to show up in your financial institution.
Don't bother calling the IRS unless:
- More than 21 days have passed since you e-filed your return (six weeks after mailing a paper return)
- “Where's My Refund" has instructed you to contact the IRS
Why Is My Refund Taking So Long?
If you are lucky enough to claim a refund, you most certainly don't want to wait any longer than you have to in order to receive it. If you didn't receive your refund within the estimated time frame, it may have been delayed due to one of the reasons below. Some of these circumstances are avoidable so take due care when preparing your return.
Errors on Your Return
Your refund will be delayed if it contains errors or is missing information. If you e-file, the IRS will automatically correct certain computation errors, but this is not necessarily the case if you file a paper return, which could account for even longer delays.
Common errors and missing information include:
- Computation errors or typos
- Social Security number or dependent information do not match the IRS database
- Missing schedules or forms necessary to support tax deductions or credits
- Missing signatures
- Errors in direct deposit information
- Filing status errors
The IRS often takes longer to process returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit.
Suspected Identity Theft or Fraud
If the IRS suspects any foul play, you will need to verify your information with the IRS Taxpayer Protection Unit before any refund is processed.
When a refund is due to you, you've essentially provided Uncle Sam with an interest-free loan, and you obviously want to reclaim it quickly. Follow best practices and use a tax software program which will eliminate many delay-causing errors, and make sure to e-file your return.