Generally, the sooner you file, the sooner you’ll see the money in the bank. The amount that you receive depends on a number of factors, including how much of your income isn’t subject to tax withholding, how many deductions and credits you claim, and how you fill out your W-4, which is the form your employer uses to determine how much to withhold from your paycheck for income taxes.
Even if you’re a procrastinator, file your tax return before April 17, 2018. Or, pay what you think you’ll owe and request an extension to avoid interest and penalties.
What’s the Average Tax Refund?
For the 2017 filing season, which covers returns filed for the 2016 calendar year, the average refund for taxpayers who received money back when filing their return was $2,782 — an increase of 1.2 percent from the $2,750 average refund during the 2016 filing season. The Trump tax plan doesn’t kick in until the 2018 calendar year, so the average refund will likely stay in the same ballpark.
The average tax refund also varies by state. For example, for the 2016 fiscal year, the average across the nation was just over $3,052. However, in Maine, the average refund was just under $2,302 while in Texas, the average taxpayer receiving a refund received just under $3,134. But, before you get jealous of Texans, remember that receiving a tax refund just means you made an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam, and the government is now paying you back for the extra amounts that were taken out of your paycheck.
Tax Refund Schedule for 2017 Returns
Don’t spend your anticipated refund before you receive it. Almost 75 percent of returns filed in the 2017 filing season received refunds; the remaining 25 percent did not get a refund or owed money when they filed their return.
If you’re expecting to receive a tax refund, two dates are important:
- Jan. 29, 2018: No matter how much of a hurry you’re in to get your taxes turned in to the IRS, you must wait until at least Jan. 29, before you file your 2017 income tax return. Typically, the IRS processes refunds within 21 days, and the IRS has stated it expects to process nine out of 10 refunds within that time frame.
- Feb. 27, 2018: If you’re claiming the earned-income tax credit or need to apply for the child tax credit, you’ll have to wait longer. The IRS expects refunds for tax returns claiming those tax credits to be available starting Feb. 27, at the earliest. If you’re claiming either credit, that means the IRS holds back your entire refund — not just the portion connected to the specific tax credit.
How to Get Your Refund Faster
To improve your chances of getting your tax refund sooner rather than later, there are few steps you can take. Here’s what you can do to get your refund faster:
- File early. In general, the sooner you file, the sooner you will get your refund. But returns claiming certain tax refunds simply can’t be processed sooner than late February.
- Check your return for errors or omissions. When the IRS needs to contact you for additional information, it slows down how quickly you receive your refund.
- Opt to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account. With direct deposit, it can take up to five days after the refund is sent to the bank to show up in your account, but with a paper check, it can take several weeks before you receive it — and you still have to cash it. Plus, you’ll save the government money and make the process more secure.
- Make sure your direct deposit account is in your name. The IRS can only deposit a check into an account in your name, your spouse’s name, or a joint account. If your account has others named on it or is in someone else’s name, the IRS will mail you a paper check instead.
Where’s My Refund?
The IRS website includes a page where you can track your refund after you’ve filed your income tax return. You can also track your refund through the IRS2Go app with the same information. The site will tell you the stage of your return:
- Return received
- Refund approved
- Refund sent
To track your refund, you need your Social Security number, your filing status, and the exact amount of your refund. Typically, you can start tracking your return one day after you file if you submit your return electronically; but if you mail in a paper tax return, it takes about one month.