When filing your taxes, if the IRS owes you a refund you will probably look forward to receiving the money in your bank account as soon as possible. Overpaying on your taxes is like giving the government a free loan, so you deserve to get your hard-earned money back as quick as possible.
Here are some things to know about how long it usually takes to receive your tax refund, the factors that affect the timing of your refund, and how to check the status of your refund.
Amount of Time It Takes the IRS to Process Tax Refunds
While the federal government has a reputation for moving slowly, more than 90% of refunds for e-file with direct deposit are issued within 21 days of your tax filing. This means 21 calendar days after the IRS receives your tax returns.
If you file paper returns with direct deposit, you can expect to receive your refund within 30 days. The extra time is because it can take the USPS up to five days to deliver first-class mail.
E-filing with a paper check sent through the mail may take up to six weeks, while a paper tax return and refund check sent through the mail could take up to eight weeks to get to you.
These are estimates, keep in mind the IRS does not make any guarantees about how long it will take them to send your refund by paper check or direct deposit.
Factors That Affect the Timing of Your Refund Check
There are several factors that play a role in the amount of time you can expect to receive your tax refund. One factor is how you want your refund delivered.
Your options include direct deposit into your credit union or bank checking or savings account, a debit card with the amount of the refund loaded to it, up to $5,000 in United States Savings Bonds, or split among up to three different accounts under the filer’s name.
For a faster refund, choose direct deposit. Keep in mind that some banks hold deposits for 24 hours before they are credited to your account.
Another factor is the complexity and accuracy of your tax return. If you have filing errors, or if you claim certain credits like the earned income credit, an extra layer of review is required. The earned income tax credit only applies under specific circumstances. As such, rules require that refunds for the earned income tax credit be held until or around February 27 of each year.
Certain deductions, such as business deductions for self-employed people or people who are claiming real estate losses, may increase the processing time for additional review requirements. The more complex your tax return, the longer it may take to get your refund.
The method you choose to file your return plays a big role in how long it takes to get your refund. When you mail a paper tax return, it must be manually read and entered. Illegible writing or missing information could take longer for an auditor to analyze. If you file electronically, most of the verification and error checking is done by computer algorithms.
Your timing, when you file during the tax season, is another factor in the timing of your refund. If you file at the last minute, your refund could take longer because the IRS processes tax returns in the order they are received.
A federal holiday or an emergency, such as a government shutdown, could lengthen the time for your refund to process. For example, shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly slowed the refund process.
How to Track the Status of Your Refund
The IRS makes it easy to check your filing status online with the IRS2Go app or IRS.gov. Simply click “Where’s My Refund?”, which will then take you to an online portal.
Enter your information, and it will show you your refund status. You will see “Return received” after the IRS has received your tax returns.
The second status will display “Refund approved,” which indicates the IRS reviewed and agreed with your tax filing.
Once your status shows as “Refund sent,” you just wait for your refund to be direct deposited to your bank or for the USPS to deliver the paper check.