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How Long Does It Take to Get My IRS Tax Refund? – Status & Tracking

By Joshua Caucutt

mailbox moneyThere are times even better than Christmas – like the day that you get your tax refund check. But unlike Christmas, you never know when that exact day will come.

The good news is that the speed of getting one’s tax refund has increased exponentially since the early 1990’s. Back when I was in college, I remember filing my taxes in March or April and then not seeing my paper check refund until as late as June. Plus, there was no real indication of the status of that refund. Information from the IRS was difficult to get in the days before the Internet.

Thankfully, filing taxes has changed quite a bit since 1990. Most significantly, we now have tax preparation software that walks taxpayers through the maze of income streams, tax credits, and overlooked tax deductions. Moreover, with the advent of technological advances, the turnaround time on tax refunds is as efficient as ever. In 2011, you can get your refund in as little as eight business days after filing.

So when will you get your tax refund? Let’s look at the two best options for tracking your refund and getting an approximate idea of when it will arrive. And then we’ll delve into five areas that can help ensure you will get your refund as quickly as possible.

Tax Refund Status & Tracking

Taxpayers who have a tax deficit or who owe taxes will usually wait until the tax filing deadline to send the required payment, but those of us who are expecting a refund want it now. The IRS has anticipated this strong desire and created two tools to help those of us who are compulsively checking our mailboxes twice a day to see if the refund has arrived.

1. IRS2Go
IRS2Go is a smartphone app created by the IRS that is made to work with both the Android and iPhone software – it can be downloaded from iTunes or the Android Marketplace. The IRS website explains how the app works and has additional tax information benefits that are provided by the app. Personally, I think this might be a little overboard, but if you really, really need the money and want to know the second that the refund is issued…here you go.

2. Where’s My Refund?
The second tool is a webpage created by the IRS called, Where’s My Refund? Just enter your social security number, filing status, and amount of your refund, and  the IRS will tell you the date that you will see your check or direct deposit. It is important to know that the refund arrival estimates are updated every Wednesday and you must wait at least 72 hours after filing to check on the status of your refund.

5 Factors Affecting the Speed of Your Tax Refund

Now that you know how to check the status of your refund, here are 5 things you can do to make sure that you get your refund as quickly as possible.

1. Be Organized
It all starts with how quickly and error-free you file your taxes. Keep all of your tax documents, including your W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and deduction statements, in one place so that they are easy to find when you are ready to file. There is nothing worse than filing delays caused by your own personal filing system.

2. Use Online Tax Prep Software
Use tax software to guide you. It is usually much faster than attempting to figure out the IRS tax booklet, and the software ensures that you are compliant with current tax law and are maximizing your deductions. The amount of time that it will take to finish your return will vary based on how many income streams, deductions, and investment income sources you have. It takes me about five hours to prepare my return using free online tax preparation software like TurboTax, and I estimate that the average is somewhere around three hours.

3. File Electronically
This factor will play the largest role in how quickly you receive your tax refund. The IRS discontinued TeleFile (filing by phone) in 2005, so we are left with two filing options: paper file via snail mail and electronic filing via the Internet. If you paper file, it will take three to four weeks for the IRS to process the return and acknowledge your refund. If you e-file, you will get a notice of arrival within 24 hours and confirmation of refund within 72 hours.

4. Request Direct Deposit
Once your tax return is accepted and the refund approved, you can choose to have your money directly deposited in your bank account within a week. If you choose to have a paper check sent through the mail from the IRS, this option will add at least another two weeks to the process.

5. File on a Sunday or Monday
If you can control it, try to file on a Sunday or Monday to maximize the likelihood that you will receive your refund before the weekend. If you file on a Friday, your filing may very well not be processed until the following week.

Final Word

There are other factors out of your control that may affect the speed of your refund like software glitches and the filing volume around the time you submit your taxes. No matter what steps you take to ensure quick refund, we are all at the mercy of the bureaucracy.

The reality is that once you hit that “e-file” button or send in your tax return by mail, there is nothing more that you can do to speed up your refund. Checking your iPhone IRS app or “Where’s My Refund” every hour may bring you peace of mind, but it will not bring you that money any faster. Remember the old adage: “a watched pot never boils”? If you are expecting a refund, file your return, relax, enjoy life, and eventually you will find a pleasant surprise in your mailbox or checking account.

Have you received your tax refund yet? How long did it take from the day you filed?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Joshua Caucutt
Joshua Caucutt has a BS in Mathematics and a Master's degree in Nouthetic Counseling. He has published or written for several blogs and websites over the past decade. He is a long-term market follower, financial educator and especially interested in looking at money from a biblical point of view. Formerly known as "Stew" at Gather Little by Little, Josh writes under his own name at Money Crashers.

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  • Coryballew17

    Hi Josh,
    I just want to say that I agree fully with the stimulation of the “Boiled Water”. We filed Feb 3, 2012 and yet almost 11 days later…”No” return. I hope it come soon!!!

    • Hope_hollingsworth

      how did you file i filed jan242012 still no refund

      • Sweetlikepech36

        Has the IRS mailed your check yet?

        • Nataxa20

          i mailed my tax on january 25th 2012 and today is feb 28 , nothing yet

        • AngC3205

          they said they mailed mine out on fed 17, still not check…

        • E R

          I mailed mine on Jan. 31 and I have nothing in my account. I keep checking “where’s my refund?”, but they recently said that due to processing delays, my refund won’t be available until March 27, 2012. So annoying. I DID opt for direct deposit, so hopefully that will speed things up a little bit.

        • Realbossytoya

          This is some bs because i mail my taxes jan 20 i was a victim of identity theft they said its done process and ready to go wtd weres the fuckin mail date

  • Keeling Natana

    I efiled almost 2 weeks ago and still no refund.. I asked to have it direct deposited… thought it would be here by now?!

  • joe61

    I efiled on feb 3, 2011 and its the 19th of feb and no return, I have direct deposit..thought it would be here by now.

  • Sjaponte1

    I filed on feb 2 2012 and got screwed my refund posted to my bank on the 15 of feb then was returned to thr irs on the 17 due to NSFwhat the hell

  • Hellena09

    I filed on the 31 of jan & no check as been mailed! I check the status & it says it will be mailed out on march 2nd… so when exactly will it arrive is my question?

    • Fournails17

      Same here. I just got a notice that I will receive a paper check instead of direct deposit due to a processing change.

  • Tmlscorpio

    I mailed mine out Jan.24 and filled in the direct deposit area It’s suppose to be here today according to the wheres my refund web site

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506622020 Christopher F Cheney

    i sent it out feb 6-7th and no i have yet to get it…… it irraites me how long it takes them but it takes them so much easier to take money out…. there no reason for the long wait for your refund when its YOUR MONEY. work can be late with your check so why is ok for irs to have a 6 week window? that is a buncho f bs out of the goverment

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506622020 Christopher F Cheney

    i sent it out feb 6-7th and no i have yet to get it…… it irraites me how long it takes them but it takes them so much easier to take money out…. there no reason for the long wait for your refund when its YOUR MONEY. work can be late with your check so why is ok for irs to have a 6 week window? that is a buncho f bs out of the goverment

  • Mbojifashion

    i filed mine on feb 6 and havent gottten anything. all it says is they have recieved it and are processing it how long will they take its march 23 now and i dont even have a date yet?? anybody with a idea what i could do to know whats going on??

    • http://twitter.com/doodlebug0 Dakota

      I efiled and it was accepted on 3/7/12. When I checked up on ‘Where’s My Refund” I kept getting the message that they couldn’t give me any information. It indicated that if I called, mention the code 9001 to cust. service rep. (Your code may be different, go to website) but to make a long story short, I called today 3/28/12 and was told my direct deposit didn’t work so they have sent me a paper check and mailed it today.

  • lilly

    just wanted to tell bossy we were told same thing, identity theft. that was first week of february. now 30th of march still they havent done anything. good luck but we were told could be as late as june. trust me if we owed they would be on it. i know! we have owed before.

  • SABRINANEAL

    IM JUST WONDERING IF MY REFUND WENT UNDER REVIEW-DOES THAT MEAN THE IRS WILL SEND ME A CHECK WHEN EVERYTHING IS ALL SAID AND DONE?

  • Annmesser

    mmine wws supposedly mailed march 26 though I opted for dd and efiled. Cant trace it through the mail and still no refund. 4-7-12

  • Guest

    i owe taxes to IRS. Do any of you know how much time it takes to pull it from my bank?

  • Shawanaevans

    I was the victim of identity theft,turned in my tax return and form(forgot what form)but received a letter saying they were reviewing my tax return and I would receive it in 45 days that was march the 5 today is April 24 and I have yet to see my check

    • vico

      To Shawanaevans,
      This is unfortunately an epidemic. The IRS is overwhelmed with thousands of these cases. I waited over a yr for the same issue. I probobly would still be waiting. I finally got in contact with the taxpayers advocacy because I lost my job and I was about to be evicted and my car was going to be reposessed. They got me my money within 2-3weeks. Cant be sure it was no longer than a month. You can get the Taxpayers Advocacy contact information from the IRS on the website.

      • Shawanaevans

        Thanks cuz today is May the 10 and I’m still waiting…will be calling in the morning.

  • Smlwoman

    I filed on January 9th. I am due a refund. Not only is it in review, but they lost the papers and I had to resend it. They aske me to wait 45 days, then send me another letter asking for another 45 days. I finally had to get a tax advoate, but as of today May 8, I still do not have my refund.

    • Cappspanamaccity

      same here

  • Allykan

    I send my file on Feb still no refund…went to the website, it is received your income tax and it is
    being processed. It is now May and I still did not receive my refund. What should I do?

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