A tax refund is issued by the IRS more than 90% of the time within 21 days, according to the IRS. In some cases, however, you may have to wait a while before you get your tax refund, depending on a number of factors.

When will I receive my tax refund?

It takes less than three weeks for the IRS to send over 90% of taxpayer refunds. There is no guarantee that you will receive your tax refund within 21 days. However, you can anticipate receiving your tax refund within a few weeks, depending on several factors.

If in case you owe the IRS a refund, you get to choose how to receive it. The following options are available to you:

It is important to choose a delivery option for your tax refund that will affect how quickly you receive your funds. In order to receive your refund as fast as possible, the IRS recommends combining the direct deposit method with an electronic tax return.

The process of tax refunds

According to your filing and delivery choices, here is an estimated breakdown of when you can expect to receive your tax refund.

Estimated delivery times for federal tax refunds

Type of deliveryFiling date / Refund receipt date
Direct deposit with e-file1-3 weeks
Direct deposit with paper file3 weeks
You will receive a refund check by mail after you file your e-file1 month
Refund check mailed to paper file in2 months

What other factors affect refund time

You may also experience delays with your tax refund if you file an incorrect return, do not complete your return or commit fraud.

There are special rules that require the IRS to hold refunds if you claim the earned income tax credit (EITC) or the additional child tax credit (ACTC). When the IRS determines that your tax return needs further review, you can also expect to wait longer for your refund.

Depending on the error or special handling required, it could take more than four months for the IRS to issue a refund. There are some tax returns that require special handling, including those with incorrect Recovery Rebate Credit amounts and those that claim the EITC or ACTC. Any return that is under suspicion of identity theft or fraud may also face delay.

Whenever the IRS contacts you via mail asking for more information or verifying your return, please respond promptly. The longer it takes you to respond to the refund request, the longer it will take to process.

Processing delays associated with the pandemic may delay a refund by more than 20 weeks if you file an amended tax form.

How to track your refund progress

By creating IRS2Go, an app that tracks your tax return status, the IRS has eliminated the guesswork associated with waiting for your refund. You can also check your refund status through the “Where’s My Refund?” option on the tax portal.

Using both tools, taxpayers can access daily updates within 24 to 36 hours after submitting an e-file return. Alternatively, you can check within four weeks after a paper return has been received by the IRS.

Using some basic information (such as your Social Security number or ITIN, filing status and refund amount), you can track your refund’s progress:

  1. Received the return.
  2. Approved refund.
  3. A refund has been sent.

In the third stage of the refund process, you’ll need to wait for your financial institution to process a direct deposit or mail you a paper check.

What to do once you get your refund

Many people receive their biggest check of the year when they receive their tax refund from the IRS. Having a plan for how you’re going to utilize your refund is a good idea in advance of your windfall. Planning ahead can help you resist the shopping impulse by deciding how to spend, save, or invest the money.

Refunds are yours to use however you wish. Use it for day-to-day expenses or to invest for long-term financial security.

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