A reader e-mailed me the other day with that exact question. His name is Brandon and he said he came back to my site after originally tripping over the post that I created as a tax guide for recent graduates. That is a roundup post that links to three of my other posts having to do with filling out a w4, figuring out taxable income, and filing taxes.
He said he found the information useful and now a month later he has a question: How long does it take to get his tax refund? He’s waiting, Uncle Sam!
I thought this was the perfect question to make a post out of because today is May 15th, one month after tax day!
It Depends On a Few Things
1) How Did You File?
If you remember from my post on filing taxes, I mentioned that one of the advantages of direct deposit is that the returns are typically sent out a week earlier and can be split into multiple accounts. The typical return time, quoted by the IRS, is 3 weeks when filed electronically using direct deposit.
If you did your return as a paper return, the IRS quotes a typical wait time of about 6 weeks. They also state that they lose thousands of checks per year due to the USPS claiming them undeliverable.
2) When Did You File?
If you filed January 2nd, you probably had a quick turnaround on your refund. Why? Because everyone else was still busy starting to think about their paperwork!
If you filed April 14th, a full day early, you may be waiting a while because of the sheer mass of returns the IRS gets flooded with towards the end of the tax year.
3) Are You Sure Your Return Was Accurate?
If you decided to “go a little crazy” this year based on your accountants judgment, shame on you. That Hummer is not a business expense. And the IRS may be calculating exactly how much you owe them as we speak.
But to be fair, even innocent people can get caught in the complex system as the government tries to shuffle through the mess.
How to Find Your Refund
If you haven’t received your refund yet, then we need to find it.
1) Don’t Fall For Scams.
Phishing is when a scam artist sends you an email falsely claiming to be someone else (such as an enterprise, like the IRS) and coaxes you to give out your financial information. Typically its for “verification” reasons or to “update your account.” This information will later be used for identity theft.
How do you know when the email is a scam? ANY email about your tax refund is a scam. The IRS does not initiate emails. NEVER.
2) Through the IRS
If you filed your taxes electronically, you can start tracking your deposit within 72 hours. If you filed a paper return, you may have to wait as long as a full month. You will need your taxes on hand, though, because you need to supply the website with the following information: Social security number, filing status, and refund amount.
If you e-filed, here is a handy PDF that projects the date of your return for both direct deposit and paper checks. It may not be the most accurate, but it lets you gauge the approximate turnaround time.
Received or Waiting?
Are you still waiting for your refund, or have you received one? For those of you still waiting, check out the PDF first and see if you should have seen one yet. If you should have, check the IRS tracking website. Has it been lost? You may need to change your address.