When Will You Get Your Tax Refund? Here’s When To Expect That Check

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One of the top tax refund questions many filers ask is, “When will I get my tax refund?” Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know the exact date of when you’ll receive your tax refund — the answer varies and it truly depends on when and how you filed your tax return.

Find Out: Tax Year Deadline Dates You Need To Know

However, you can estimate when you’ll receive your funds. The IRS issues most refunds less than 21 days after filing, according to the agency. So generally, you can expect to get your tax refund about three weeks after you file your tax return.

Keep reading to learn what you need to know about refunds and when you can expect your tax refund this year.

Get a comprehensive overview of the tax refund process, or jump straight to the section you want to know more about:

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IRS Tax Refund Schedule for 2020 Returns

If you’re asking yourself, “When will I receive my tax refund?” keep this in mind: The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, according to its website. However, this timeline only applies if you file your federal tax returns electronically. If you file through regular mail, then expect to wait around six weeks to receive your refund.

Another important thing to note: If your tax return requires additional review, you may have to wait longer to receive your refund.

Learn: What Is Capital Gains Tax?

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How To Track Your Tax Refund

The IRS website offers a “Where’s My Refund?” tool that enables you to 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. You will see one of the following statuses on the site:

  1. Return received
  2. Refund approved
  3. Refund sent

To track your refund, you’ll need your Social Security number, your filing status, and the exact amount of your refund.

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For filing status, you’ll have to choose from the following options:

  • Single
  • Married-Filing Joint Return
  • Married-Filing Separate Return
  • Head of Household
  • Qualifying Widow(er)

Providing all of these personal details helps protect your information and avoids anyone else accessing your tax return data. If you’re wondering, “Where’s my tax refund?” this is how you find out the exact answer.

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.

Learn More: Here’s the Average IRS Tax Refund Amount

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How To Get Your Tax Refund Faster

No matter how you plan on using your tax refund, you’re probably anxious to receive it. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your chances of getting your tax refund quickly:

File early: In general, the sooner you file, the sooner you will get your refund. But returns claiming certain tax credits might not get processed any earlier than late February. Specifically, taxpayers taking advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit and/or the Additional Child Tax Credit may have to go through this wait.

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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 use e-file to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account: With direct deposit, it might take a few days for the refund to show up in your account, depending on your financial institution. If you prefer, you can even spread out your refund among two to three bank accounts, including an IRA. The paper return with a check is a much slower process, which can take up to four weeks.

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 a paper check to you instead.

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What If You File Your Taxes Late?

Filing taxes on time is generally a good practice. In addition to releasing yourself of the burden, you can expect an earlier tax refund. The longer you wait to file your taxes, the longer it will take to get your refund.

Plus, filing late might incur some expensive consequences. If the IRS owes you a refund, filing late generally won’t hurt you. However, if you owe taxes, you will be penalized for both filing and paying late.

The deadline for filing your 2020 federal taxes is May 17, 2021.

Some people need more time to file taxes. If you’re e-filing, you can file for an extension for free using the IRS’s Free File. Paper filers will need to submit Form 4868 to get a six-month extension on their tax deadline. This strategy helps you avoid paying taxes late, but note that the form doesn’t extend the time to pay taxes. If you wind up owing taxes after the extension, you will still be penalized.

Click To See: Only 18% of Americans Believe Their Tax Dollars are Being Spent the Right Way

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Why Your Tax Refund Might Be Delayed

The IRS lists the following issues that might extend the tax refund processing time and delay your refund:

  • Amended return refunds take about 16 weeks
  • You’re filing an injured spouse claim
  • You’re renewing an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)

There’s also a three refunds-per-year limit on the number of direct deposits going into a single account. If you exceed this limit, it might take up to 10 weeks to receive your refund check.

If you’re still wondering about your IRS refund status, learn more about what could be holding up your funds.

To avoid a delay in the future, consider changing your tax withholding for next year. That way, instead of waiting for a refund for overpaying your taxes all year, you’ll keep that cash in your pocket every paycheck. At the end of the day, a large refund isn’t always a good thing — it simply means you gave the government too much money. Plus, you can incorporate it into your ongoing budget rather than blowing your tax money irresponsibly.

Good to Know: The Complete Guide To Filling Out Your W-4 Form

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When To Call the IRS To Check Tax Refund Status

Still feeling a bit anxious about when to expect your return? The IRS recommends you only call them if:

  • It’s been more than 21 days since you e-filed
  • It’s been six weeks or more since you mailed your returns
  • The “Where’s My Refund” tool tells you to contact the IRS

Make sure you have your Social Security number or your ITIN handy when you reach out to the IRS.

See: Outrageous Ways Real People Spent Their Tax Refund

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When Can I Expect My State Tax Refund?

State and federal taxes are separate filing processes. When expecting a refund from your state government, the exact timeline varies based on several factors, including your specific state. Just like with your federal tax return, the processing time is usually much less if you file electronically with your state.

To check on the progress of your state tax return, find the contact information for your state’s department of taxation. You’ll likely need personally-identifying information to receive specifics on your tax refund, including your Social Security number and your refund amount.

Also, note that some states are implementing refunds through debit cards rather than checks or direct deposits to make it easier for people who don’t have a bank account.

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Whenever Your Tax Refund Comes, Protect Your Identity

Identity theft during tax season is a real problem. According to the IRS, thousands of individual taxpayers have lost millions of combined dollars through tax scams.

The best way to protect your identity — and your tax money is to know how the IRS communicates with taxpayers. You should never hear from the IRS through email, text or social media. You can automatically discard any phishing attempts that come through these channels.

If you owe taxes, know that IRS collection employees must show you two forms of credentials and will never request payment on the spot. When you do make an IRS payment, it should always be made to the U.S. Treasury. You can report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission and phishing schemes directly to the IRS.

Also, be aware of how to inadvertently commit tax fraud on your own. If you don’t feel confident that all of the deductions you’re claiming are legitimate, you should hire a professional.

Learn: 18 Medical Expenses You Can Deduct From Your Taxes

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Preparing For the IRS Refund Schedule

Properly filing your taxes and keeping relevant information on hand can help you track your IRS refund status. Filing your tax returns electronically can help expedite the process, as can opting for direct deposit rather than a paper check in the mail. With multiple options to contact the IRS, it’s easy to find out when you’ll get your tax refund this year. Once you receive your money, the only thing left to do is to decide how to spend it.

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About the Author

Sean joined the GOBankingRates team in 2018, bringing with him several years of experience with both military and collegiate writing and editing experience. Sean’s first foray into writing happened when he enlisted in the Marines, with the occupational specialty of combat correspondent. He covered military affairs both in garrison and internationally when he deployed to Afghanistan. After finishing his enlistment, he completed his BA in English at UC Berkeley, eventually moving to Southern California.
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