When it comes to filing a federal 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. However, 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 Refund Schedule for Direct Deposits and Check Refunds
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. The IRS moved to the Modernized E-file System (MEF) in 2013 (2012 tax year). The IRS only issued refunds once per week under the old system. They now issue refunds every business day, Monday through Friday (except holidays).
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 IRS statements, published guidelines, and estimates from past years. This IRS refund schedule should only be used as a rough guideline.
To use the tax refund chart:
- Use the left hand column to look up the date your tax refund was accepted by the IRS
- 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 federal 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 17, 2018, 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 additional tax deadline extensions if they were deployed or served overseas during the tax year.
Note: The IRS announced the official first day to file tax returns is January 29, 2018. However, in some previous years, the IRS has accepted tax returns early, or delayed the acceptance of returns, depending on technical issues. We will update this article to reflect that information if we hear about it this year. 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 29 and Feb 04, 2018||Feb 12, 2018||Feb 16, 2018|
|Feb 05 and Feb 11, 2018||Feb 19, 2018||Feb 23, 2018|
|Feb 12 and Feb 18, 2018||Feb 26, 2018||Mar 2, 2018|
|Feb 19 and Feb 25, 2018||Mar 5, 2018||Mar 9, 2018|
|Feb 26 and Mar 04, 2018||Mar 12, 2018||Mar 16, 2018|
|Mar 05 and Mar 11, 2018||Mar 19, 2018||Mar 23, 2018|
|Mar 12 and Mar 18, 2018||Mar 26, 2018||Mar 30, 2018|
|Mar 19 and Mar 25, 2018||Apr 2, 2018||Apr 6, 2018|
|Mar 26 and Apr 01, 2018||Apr 9, 20178||Apr 13, 2018|
|Apr 02 and Apr 08, 2018||Apr 16, 2018||Apr 20, 2018|
|Apr 09 and Apr 15, 2018||Apr 23, 2018||Apr 27, 2018|
|Apr 16 and Apr 22, 2018||Apr 30, 2018||May 4, 2018|
|Apr 23 and Apr 29, 2018||May 7, 2018||May 11, 2018|
|Apr 30 and May 06, 2018||May 14, 2018||May 18, 2018|
|May 07 and May 13, 2018||May 21, 201||May 25, 2018|
|May 14 and May 20, 2018||May 28, 2018||Jun 1, 2018|
|May 21 and May 27, 2018||Jun 4, 2018||Jun 8, 2018|
|May 28 and Jun 03, 2018||Jun 11, 2018||Jun 15, 2018|
|Jun 04 and Jun 10, 2018||Jun 18, 2018||Jun 22, 2018|
|Jun 11 and Jun 17, 2018||Jun 25, 2018||Jun 29, 2018|
|Jun 18 and Jun 24, 2018||Jul 2, 2018||Jul 6, 2018|
|Jun 25 and Jul 01, 2018||Jul 9, 2018||Jul 13, 2018|
|Jul 02 and Jul 08, 2018||Jul 16, 2018||Jul 20, 2018|
|Jul 09 and Jul 15, 2018||Jul 23, 2018||Jul 27, 2018|
|Jul 16 and Jul 22, 2018||Jul 30, 2018||Aug 3, 2018|
|Jul 23 and Jul 29, 2018||Aug 4, 2018||Aug 10, 2018|
|Jul 30 and Aug 05, 2018||Aug 13, 2018||Aug 17, 2018|
|Aug 06 and Aug 12, 2018||Aug 20, 2018||Aug 24, 2018|
|Aug 13 and Aug 19, 2018||Aug 27, 2018||Aug 31, 2018|
|Aug 20 and Aug 26, 2018||Sep 3, 2018||Sep 7, 2018|
|Aug 27 and Sep 02, 2018||Sep 10, 2018||Sep 14, 2018|
|Sep 03 and Sep 09, 2018||Sep 17, 2018||Sep 21, 2018|
|Sep 10 and Sep 16, 2018||Sep 24, 2018||Sep 28, 2018|
|Sep 17 and Sep 23, 2018||Oct 1, 2018||Oct 5, 2018|
|Sep 24 and Sep 30, 2018||Oct 8, 2018||Oct 12, 2018|
|Oct 01 and Oct 07, 2018||Oct 15, 2018||Oct 19, 2018|
|Oct 08 and Oct 14, 2018||Oct 22, 2018||Oct 26, 2018|
*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.
Important Tax Filing Dates & Refund Dates
When can I file my tax return? The first day to officially file your 2017 tax return is January 29, 2018. However, many tax software programs will allow you to complete your return and “file” it before that date. They will then hold the returns until the IRS begins accepting them. Some taxpayers who submit their electronic tax return early may be able to participate in the IRS HUB Testing program. This is a controlled testing of the federal tax return system. The IRS processes a small percentage of tax returns from major software providers to test the tax return submission process and allow for fixing bugs before opening the doors to all taxpayers.
When are taxes due? The last day to file taxes is April 17, 2018. (April 15 is the tax deadline for most years, unless it falls on a weekend or an observed holiday. April 16, 2018 is the observed holiday for Emancipation Day, for Washington DC). You can file a tax extension if you are not ready to file your taxes by the deadline.
How long does it take to receive my tax refund? Approximately 90% of tax payers will receive their refunds in less than 21 days from the day their tax return was accepted by the IRS. Most people receive their refund in an average of 10-14 days.
Are there any expected tax refund delays? Yes. The IRS is required by federal law to withhold tax refunds for taxpayers who claim Earned Income Tax Credits and Additional Child Tax Credit until at least Feb. 27, 2018. Keep in mind it can still take a week to receive the refund after the IRS releases it. So some people who file early may experience delays while awaiting their refund. Refunds should be processed normally after this date. Also note that new identity theft protections and anti-fraud measures may hold up some refunds, as some federal tax returns may be held for further review.
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. You can receive your refund via an ACH bank transaction in as little as a few days. While receiving a paper check can take over a week to process, several days to travel via the postal system, and several days to clear your bank.
*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 IRS tax refund status roughly 24 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 4 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.
You can also call the IRS at 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 day during the week, usually between midnight and 6am. They do not update the status more than once a day, so checking throughout the day will not give you a different result.
Should I call the IRS to check my federal tax refund status? The IRS has stated you should only call them if it has been:
- 21 days or more since you e-filed
- 6 weeks or more since you mailed your return, or when
- “Where’s My Refund” tells you to contact the IRS
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.