How Long Do Tax Refunds Take?

If you're getting a refund, the clock starts ticking after you file your taxes. Of course, you want your money as soon as possible. The Internal Revenue Service provides information about typical processing times as well as a way of checking the status of your refund.

Tax Refund Overview

You can file your income tax return in two ways. The standard way of filing has always involved mailing your paper tax return. You can still file your taxes this way if desired. The newer way to file your income taxes is via electronic filing. Many taxpayers opt for electronic filing because it's more convenient and the processing time is faster.

The Typical Timeline

Mailing in your income tax return has a standard refund processing time of six to eight weeks from the time the IRS gets your tax return in the mail.

When you e-file and designate a bank account for direct deposit of your refund, you'll get your money much faster. The IRS estimates that about nine out of every 10 electronically filed tax returns are processed and deposited within three weeks of the IRS getting the tax return.

What Might Make It Take Longer

Some issues could delay your tax refund.

  • If you make errors or typos in any of your entries, delays might happen. Also, if you file a hard-copy return and the IRS can't read your writing, expect a delay.
  • Math errors are another common reason for refund delays.
  • Taxpayers who select more than one filing status or who choose the wrong filing status probably won't see a refund within the normal timeline.
  • If you enter dollar values on the wrong lines, your refund may take longer.
  • Filing very early or very late are also typical reasons for delayed refunds.

IRS - Where's My Refund?

The IRS makes it possible for you to check the status of your return. You can start checking the status within 24 to 48 hours after electronically filing your tax return. If you mailed your income tax return, you have to wait four weeks to start checking.

Check My Refund Status

As you check your refund status, the first status change you'll notice is the IRS indicating "return received." This tells you that the IRS has your tax return and has started processing it.

Keep watching, and the status should eventually change to "refund approved." This tells you that processing is finished and the IRS has approved your refund. It may take just a couple of days to move from the received to the approved status, but sometimes it takes longer. After your refund is approved, you should see a specific refund date.

The last status update you'll see is "refund sent." This tells you that the IRS has sent your refund directly to your bank account. From this point, most banks take between one and five days to deposit the funds and make them available to you. If you're getting a refund check in the mail, you might not receive it for several weeks.

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