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irs tax refund schedule

Many people dread tax season. But if you’re expecting a tax refund, you’ve got a couple of things to look forward to. Firstly, the IRS has extended the tax filing deadline by one month to May 17. Secondly, with your extra funds, you may be able to pay off some debt, start saving in a high-interest savings account or work with a financial advisor to set and reach investing and retirement goals.

Most people will get their tax refund within three weeks, but it varies based on how you file and how you get your refund. Let’s break down the refund schedule and how long it takes for the IRS to issue refunds.

When Will I Get My Tax Refund?

irs tax refund schedule

The Where’s My Refund? tool lets you check the status of your refund through the IRS website or the IRS2Go mobile app. If you submit your tax return electronically, you can check the status of your refund within 24 hours. But if you mail your tax return, you’ll need to wait at least four weeks before you can receive any information about your tax refund. Keep in mind that usually you can file your taxes in January.

In order to find out the status of your tax refund, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number (SSN), filing status and the exact dollar amount of your expected refund. If you accidentally enter the wrong SSN, it could trigger an IRS Error Code 9001. That may require further identity verification and delay your tax refund.

Most taxpayers receive their refunds within 21 days. If you choose to have your refund deposited directly into your account, you may have to wait five days before you can gain access to it. If you request a refund check, you might have to wait a few weeks for it to arrive. The table below will give you an idea of how long you’ll wait, from the time you file, until you get your refund.

Federal Tax Refund Schedule
Filing Method E-File, Direct Deposit Paper File, Direct Deposit E-File, Check in Mail Paper File, Check in Mail
Time from the day you file until you receive your refund 1-3 weeks 3 weeks 1 month 2 months

Note that these are just guidelines. Based on how you file, most filers can generally expect to receive a refund within these time frames.

For a more detailed estimate of when you could get your tax refund, this table breaks down when direct deposits are sent (an average of two weeks after your taxes were accepted by the IRS for direct deposits and three weeks for paper checks in the mail.)

2021 IRS Refund Schedule
Taxes Accepted Direct Deposit Paper Check
Week of February 13 February 26 March 5
Week of February 20 March 5 March 12
Week of February 27 March 12 March 19
Week of March 6 March 19 March 26
Week of March 13 March 26 April 2
Week of March 20 April 2 April 9
Week of March 27 April 9 April 16
Week of April 3 April 16 April 23
Week of April 10 April 23 April 30
Week of April 17 April 30 May 7
Week of April 24 May 7 May 14
Week of May 1 May 14 May 21
Week of May 8 May 21 May 28
Week of May 15 May 28 June 4
Week of May 22 June 4 June 11
Week of May 29 June 11 June 18
Week of June 5 June 18 June 25
Week of June 12 June 25 July 2
Week of June 19 July 2 July 9
Week of June 26 July 9 July 16
Week of July 3 July 16 July 23
Week of July 10 July 23 July 30
Week of July 17 July 30 August 6
Week of July 24 August 6 August 13
Week of July 31 August 13 August 20

What’s Taking So Long?

If you don’t receive your refund in 21 days, your tax return might need further review. This may happen if your return was incomplete or incorrect. The IRS may send you instructions through the mail if it needs additional information in order to process your return.

You may also experience delays if you claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, the IRS is required to hold tax returns for folks who claimed those credits until Feb. 15. If you claimed either of those tax breaks, a PATH Act message may appear when you use the Where’s My Refund? tool.

If you haven’t received your refund and you’re becoming impatient, calling the IRS will likely not help. It’s best to avoid contacting the IRS directly unless the Where’s My Refund tool prompted you to do so or it’s been 21 days since you filed your tax return electronically  – or six weeks since you mailed your paper tax return.

Note that due to the Coronavirus IRS employees have been working remotely, and paper returns are taking longer to process. Reportedly, some IRS workers have since returned to the office, but people who filed paper returns are experiencing unusual delays in receiving their refunds.

What About My State Tax Refund?

irs tax refund schedule

What we’ve covered so far applies to federal tax refunds. As you might expect, every state does things a little differently when it comes to issuing tax refund.

Generally, you can expect to receive your state tax refund within 30 days if you filed your tax return electronically. If you filed a paper tax return, it may take as many as 12 weeks for your refund to arrive – or longer, if your state has been or still is under social distancing restrictions. To find out the status of your refund, you’ll need to contact your state tax agency or visit your state’s Department of Revenue website.

When Are Taxes Due?

For most years, the deadline to submit your tax return and pay your tax bill is April 15. But for your 2020 taxes, it was pushed back about a month to May 17, 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. There’s currently no such plan in place for the 2021 tax year, for which you’ll file in early 2022.

If you still can’t meet the tax filing deadline for the upcoming year, you can file for an extension. But the sooner you file, the sooner you can receive your tax refund.

Bottom Line

If you want to receive your tax refund as quickly as possible, you’ll need to complete your tax return early, check for mistakes before submitting it and file electronically. And while you can ask for a physical check, you’ll receive your refund much faster if it’s deposited directly into your checking account, savings account or your individual retirement account (IRA). If you’re anxious about the status of your tax refund, don’t forget to use the IRS Where’s My Refund tool. It provides real-time updates on the status of your refund.

Tips for Maximizing Your Tax Savings

  • Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • When you’re filing your taxes, a tax filing service can make things easier. They can take a lot of the confusion out of the process for you and help you file a more accurate tax return. They can also help you find deductions or exemptions that you wouldn’t have known about on your own. Popular software choices include TurboTax and H&R Block.
  • If you find that you’re regularly receiving large tax refunds, this may mean that you’re paying too much in taxes in the first place. In that case, you may want to adjust the withholding amounts on your W-4 so you can keep more money throughout the course of the year. Big refunds are exciting, but why give the IRS a free loan?

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Juanmonino, ©iStock.com/balticboy, ©iStock.com/anyaberkut

Lauren Perez, CEPF® Lauren Perez writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, with a special expertise in savings, banking and credit cards. She is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. Lauren has a degree in English from the University of Rochester where she focused on Language, Media and Communications. She is originally from Los Angeles. While prone to the occasional shopping spree, Lauren has been aware of the importance of money management and savings since she was young. Lauren loves being able to make credit card and retirement account recommendations to friends and family based on the hours of research she completes at SmartAsset.
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