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Tax Refund Schedule: When should I receive my tax refund from the IRS?

The U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS have officially extended the tax filing due date from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. This extension applies automatically to all taxpayers with an original April 15 tax filing due date. For more information, please read Coronavirus (COVID-19) Tax Impact - Relief from timely filing of 2019 Federal income tax returns.

Tax filing season is in full swing. As stated in the disclaimer above, the disruption caused by COVID-19 resulted in the Treasury Department and IRS automatically extending the U.S. tax filing due date from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. While this automatic extension allows you more time to file your tax return, why wait?

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The IRS begins accepting tax returns near the end of January each year. This year, the IRS started accepting tax returns on January 27, 2020. On average, once the IRS accepts your tax return, you will typically receive your tax refund (if eligible) within 21 days. However, certain things may cause delays in the tax refund process, resulting in you waiting longer for your tax refund.

What will delay the tax refund process?

In general, three things tend to increase the amount of time you must wait until you receive your tax refund. The three most common bottlenecks in the tax refund process include: (1) method for sending your tax return, (2) method for receiving your tax refund, and (3) the credits you claim on your tax return.

1. Method of Tax Return Delivery

You can choose to send your tax return electronically or by mail when filing your tax return. If you choose to e-file, or file your tax return electronically, the IRS will be able to process it faster than if you mail in your tax return.

2. Method of Tax Refund Acceptance

You can choose to receive your tax refund via direct deposit or check when filing your tax return. If you choose direct deposit, you will receive your tax refund faster than if you choose to receive a tax refund check by mail.

3. Credits Claimed on Tax Return

Certain claimed credits on your tax return will cause a delay in the tax refund process. Specifically, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit tend to cause your tax refund to be delayed. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act causes the tax refund delay, which prevents the IRS from issuing EITC and ACTC tax refunds before mid-February. So, if you claim these tax credits on your tax return, you should expect a longer wait period before receiving your tax refund.

Other factors that can delay you from receiving your tax refund within the estimated time period include: tax return errors, incomplete tax return information, identity theft/fraud, Form 8379, and other items that increase the IRS review requirements.

IRS Tax Refund Estimated Schedule

The IRS delivers its tax refunds on a schedule. As stated above, certain tax return factors will affect when you receive your tax refund. However, the estimated tax refund schedule goes as follows:

Estimated Tax Refund Schedule: Mail and check
If you mail your tax return and elect tax refund delivery by mail, you should receive your tax refund check within two months after the IRS accepts your tax return.

Estimated Tax Refund Schedule: Mail and direct deposit
If you mail your tax return and elect for tax refund delivery by direct deposit, you should receive your tax refund direct deposit within three weeks after the IRS accepts your tax return.

Estimated Tax Refund Schedule: E-file and check
If you e-file your tax return and elect for tax refund delivery by mail, you should receive your tax refund check within a month after the IRS accepts your tax return.

Estimated Tax Refund Schedule: E-file and direct deposit
If you e-file your tax return and elect for tax refund delivery by direct deposit, you should receive your tax refund direct deposit within one to three weeks after the IRS accepts your tax return

* You will receive an alert after the IRS accepts your tax return. The tax return acceptance is the initial step in the tax return review process. 

You can check the status of your tax refund on the IRS website. The IRS's "Where's My Refund?" function will provide the following information:
  • When the IRS received your tax return,
  • when the IRS approved your tax refund, and
  • when the IRS sent your tax refund

In order to use the tax refund tracker ("Where's My Refund?"), you need your Social Security number, filing status, and dollar amount of your tax refund (exact whole dollar amount). The status tracker will be available for use for tax return e-filers within 24 hours and tax return mailers within four weeks.

Should you contact the IRS regarding your tax return refund?

You should only call the IRS if it has been:
  • Three or more weeks (21 days) since you e-filed your tax return, or
  • A month and a half or more (6 weeks) since you mailed your tax return, or
  • The IRS's "Where's My Refund" alerts you to contact the IRS.
If you know your tax refund has been lost, stolen, or destroyed, you should file an online claim with the IRS for a replacement check. You must wait 28 days from the date the IRS officially mailed your tax refund before filing the replacement tax refund check claim.The tax refund status tracker ("Where's My Refund?") will provide you more information about filing the claim if this situation applies to you. 

I hope you now have a better understanding about the tax refund process. Please share with others to help them learn when they should expect to receive their tax refunds from the IRS. For any and all comments and questions, please reach out via my contact page or comment below.


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