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irs tax refund schedule

Coronavirus-related update: Like many of us, IRS employees have been working from home since spring. As a result, there is a backlog of paper tax returns, since they can’t be processed remotely. Reportedly, some IRS workers have since returned to the office, but people who filed paper returns are experiencing unusual delays in receiving their refunds.

Many people dread tax season. But if you’re expecting a tax refund for the 2019 tax season (filing deadline July 15, 2020), you’ve got something to look forward to. With your extra funds, you may be able to pay off some debt, start saving in a high-interest savings account or otherwise get serious about your financial plan. Wondering when your refund will arrive? Most people will get their tax refund within three weeks, but it varies based on how you file and how you get your refund. Check out our chart below to see the refund schedule and how long it takes for the IRS to issue refunds.

Go beyond taxes to build a comprehensive financial plan. Find a local financial advisor today.

When Will I Receive 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 you can file your 2019 taxes starting on January 27.

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
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.

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. (Also, as noted at the top of this article paper returns are taking longer to process.)

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?

The deadline to submit your 2019 tax return and pay your tax bill is July 15, 2020 (postponed from April 15, due to the coronavirus pandemic). If you can’t meet the tax filing deadline, you can file for an extension. But the sooner you file, the sooner you can receive your tax refund. The earliest you can submit your 2019 tax return is January 27, 2020.

Final Word

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.

If you’ve got a significant refund coming your way, you might consider talking to a financial advisor about how to invest the extra cash. You can use SmartAsset’s advisor matching tool to find an advisor in your area today.

Tips for Maximizing Your Tax Savings

  • 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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