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Ask Our Taxes Expert

Have a question? Ask our Taxes expert.

Have questions? Email Send your question to jmansfield@smartasset.com

Ask Our Taxes Expert

Have a question? Ask our Taxes expert.

Have questions? Email Send your question to jmansfield@smartasset.com

irs tax refund schedule

Many people dread tax season. But if you’re expecting a tax refund, at least you’ll have something to look forward to. With your extra funds, you may be able to buy a new car or pay off some debt. Wondering when your refund will arrive in your mailbox or bank account? We’ll fill you in on the tax refund schedule and how long it takes for the IRS to issue refunds.

When Are Taxes Due?

The deadline to submit your 2017 tax return and pay your tax bill is April 17, 2018. While tax day usually falls on April 15, the date may change if April 15 falls on a weekend or a holiday. 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.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to wait until April to file your taxes. The IRS began accepting tax returns on January 29, 2018.

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.

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* 1-2 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 February 15, 2018. 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 might 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).

What About My State Tax Refund?

irs tax refund schedule

What we’ve covered so far applies to federal tax refunds. The rules for issuing state tax refunds vary.

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. 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.

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.

Tax Season Tips

  • When you’re filing your taxes, you may want to use a tax filing service to make things easier. This can take a lot of the confusion out of the process for you and help you file a more accurate tax return. Some popular software choices include TurboTax and H&R Block.
  • Once you’ve received your tax refund, it’s often more beneficial to put that money toward a financial gain rather than spending it frivolously. For example, you can deposit that money into a savings account to grow your emergency fund. You could also use that money to pay off credit card debt. Pro Tip: Deposit your refund into a high-interest savings account. Check out the CIT Bank Money Market Account. It offers 1.85% interest (20x the national average) and doesn’t charge any service fees. You can open an account with a $100 minimum deposit.
  • 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 and instead invest it in your future. A financial advisor can help you draft a tax-efficient investment plan. If you’re searching for an advisor, our SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and your goals. Then the program will narrow down your options to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

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 of American Business Editors and Writers. 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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