There 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.
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.
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?