When it comes to filing a tax return, there are a few questions that people care about more than any other – how much am I paying on taxes, how much will I get back in my tax refund, and when will I receive it? Everything else, the say, is just details.
There is no quick and easy answer to the first two questions, but we can give you a rough idea of when you will receive your tax refund, but only if you file your federal taxes electronically using a software program or with the IRS E-File. Expect longer delays if you file your return on paper, because it takes longer for the IRS to process your paperwork. The tax refund chart below offers more information on when to expect tax refunds.
Learn how military members can file taxes for free.
IRS E-File Schedule for Check Refunds and Direct Deposits
The following tax refund table is based on previous refund tables released by the IRS to help tax payers know when they should receive their tax refund. Due to changes in the IRS auditing system, they no longer release a full schedule as they did in previous years. The following chart is based on estimates from past years.
To use the refund chart:
- Use the left hand column to look up the date your tax refund was accepted
- Use the middle or right column to look up when you should receive your refund (depending on how you requested your refund – direct deposit or paper check).
If you filed your taxes with E-File, you should receive a confirmation that your tax return was accepted by the IRS. This date will go in the left column. If you didn’t file your taxes electronically, then this chart may not be useful for you for two reasons: you won’t have a confirmation date regarding when your tax return was accepted, and paper tax returns are manually entered by IRS employees, so the process takes longer.
You will also note that this chart covers dates beyond the traditional filing date. If you file after April 15, 2015, then you should file a tax extension request. It’s simple, and can potentially save you a lot of money in penalties. Note: Some military members may be eligible for additional tax deadline extensions if they were deployed or served overseas during the tax year.
Note: The IRS announced the official first day for tax refunds is January 19, 2016. However, many people have reported that the IRS began accepting refunds before the 19th. You can try to extrapolate the refund date based on the the below chart.
|Tax Return Accepted By IRS before 11:00 am between…||Direct Deposit Sent*||Paper Check Mailed*|
|Jan 19, 2016 (first day IRS accepts returns) and Jan 29, 2016||Feb 5, 2016||Feb 6, 2016|
|Jan 30 and Feb 05, 2016||Feb 12, 2016||Feb 13, 2016|
|Feb 06 and Feb 12, 2016||Feb 19, 2016||Feb 20, 2016|
|Feb 13 and Feb 19, 2016||Feb 26, 2016||Feb 27 , 2016|
|Feb 20 and Feb 26, 2016||Mar 4, 2016||Mar 5, 2016|
|Feb 27 and Mar 04, 2016||Mar 11, 2016||Mar 12, 2016|
|Mar 05 and Mar 11, 2016||Mar 18, 2016||Mar 19, 2016|
|Mar 12 and Mar 18, 2016||Mar 25, 2016||Mar 26, 2016|
|Mar 19 and Mar 25, 2016||Apr 1, 2016||Apr 2, 2016|
|Mar 26 and Apr 01, 2016||Apr 8, 2016||Apr 09, 2016|
|Apr 02 and Apr 08, 2016||Apr 15, 2016||Apr 16, 2016|
|Apr 09 and Apr 15, 2016||Apr 22, 2016||Apr 23, 2016|
|Apr 16 and Apr 22, 2016||Apr 29, 2016||Apr 30, 2016|
|Apr 23 and Apr 29, 2016||May 6, 2016||May 7, 2016|
|Apr 30 and May 06, 2016||May 13, 2016||May 14, 2016|
|May 07 and May 13, 2016||May 20, 2016||May 21, 2016|
|May 14 and May 20, 2016||May 27, 2016||May 28, 2016|
|May 21 and May 27, 2016||Jun 3, 2016||Jun 4, 2016|
|May 28 and Jun 03, 2016||Jun 10, 2016||Jun 11, 2016|
|Jun 04 and Jun 10, 2016||Jun 17, 2016||Jun 18, 2016|
|Jun 11 and Jun 17, 2016||Jun 24, 2016||Jun 25, 2016|
|Jun 18 and Jun 24, 2016||Jul 1, 2016||Jul 2, 2016|
|Jun 25 and Jul 01, 2016||Jul 8, 2016||Jul 9, 2016|
|Jul 02 and Jul 08, 2016||Jul 15, 2016||Jul 16, 2016|
|Jul 09 and Jul 15, 2016||Jul 22, 2016||Jul 23, 2016|
|Jul 16 and Jul 22, 2016||Jul 29, 2016||Jul 30, 2016|
|Jul 23 and Jul 29, 2016||Aug 5, 2016||Aug 6, 2016|
|Jul 30 and Aug 05, 2016||Aug 12, 2016||Aug 13, 2016|
|Aug 06 and Aug 12, 2016||Aug 19, 2016||Aug 20, 2016|
|Aug 13 and Aug 19, 2016||Aug 26, 2016||Aug 27, 2016|
|Aug 20 and Aug 26, 2016||Sep 2, 2016||Sep 3, 2016|
|Aug 27 and Sep 02, 2016||Sep 9, 2016||Sep 10, 2016|
|Sep 03 and Sep 09, 2016||Sep 16, 2016||Sep 17, 2016|
|Sep 10 and Sep 16, 2016||Sep 23, 2016||Sep 24, 2016|
|Sep 17 and Sep 23, 2016||Sep 30, 2016||Oct 1, 2016|
|Sep 24 and Sep 30, 2016||Oct 7, 2016||Oct 8, 2016|
|Oct 01 and Oct 07, 2016||Oct 14, 2016||Oct 15, 2016|
|Oct 08 and Oct 14, 2016||Oct 21, 2016||Oct 22, 2016|
*Note: Again, these are estimated dates based on previous tax refund schedules released by the IRS. The IRS no longer publishes these tax refund charts, due to their auditing process.
Keep in mind it may take a few days for your financial institution to make your deposit available to you, or it may take several days for the check to arrive in the mail. Keep this in mind when planning to use your tax refund. The IRS states to allow for 5 additional days for the funds to become available to you. In almost all cases a direct deposit will get you your tax refund more quickly than 5 days, and in some cases will be available immediately.
How Should You Request to Receive Your Refund?
The IRS gives you three options for receiving your refund. You can choose to receive your refund in a direct deposit (you can split your refund and have it sent to up to three banks), you can have a paper check sent to your home, or you can choose to buy US Savings Bonds with your tax refund. You can also apply a refund to any future taxes owed. This is a popular choice among some small business owners who are required to pay estimated taxes. Of the three refund options available to you, the Direct Deposit option is the fastest and safest option.
*Note: Some tax software companies also offer the option of receiving a tax refund on a prepaid debit card. I’m not particularly fond of this option, but it is available to some tax filers. In this case, the refund is first sent to the tax preparation company, then they issue you the prepaid debit card.
Tax Refund Schedule for Extensions and Amended Tax Returns
The refund schedule should be the same if you filed for a tax extension, however, there is no official schedule for tax refunds for amended tax returns. The above list only includes dates for e-filing an original tax return. Amended tax returns are processed manually, and often take 8-12 weeks to process. If you do not receive an amended tax return refund within 8 weeks after you file it, then you should contact the IRS to check on the status.
How to Check the Status of Your Tax Return
You should be able to check the status of your tax refund roughly 72 hours after your receive confirmation form the IRS that they have received your tax refund via E-File. You will need to wait at least 3 weeks if you mailed in your tax return. The best way to check the status of your federal tax refund is to visit the Where’s My Refund page at the IRS website, or, call 1-800-829-1954, or 1-800-829-4477, or 1-800-829-1040 and inquire about your tax return status with an IRS a customer service representative. Note that the IRS only updates tax return statuses once a week, on Wednesdays.
Get a Larger Tax Refund Next Year
If you want a bigger tax refund next year, then there are a few ways you can increase the amount of money the government will give you as a tax refund. One of the easiest ways is by contributing to a tax-deferred retirement plan such as a 401k, the Thrift Savings Plan, or by opening a Traditional IRA, which allows you to deduct up to an additional $5,500 on your taxes each year (up to $6,500 if you are age 50 or older). You can open an IRA in a variety of locations, including banks, brokerage firms, independent advisors, and more.
Update: IRS Announces Some Tax Refunds Will Be Late
The IRS recently upgraded their computer systems to prevent tax refund fraud. This may affect people who filed early in the year. Find out if your tax refund will be late.