The amount of time it takes to get your tax refund depends on how you filed, when you filed, and certain credits you may have filed for, among other factors. Approximately nine out of 10 tax refunds are issued within 21 days, according to the IRS. But if you’re among the one in 10 taxpayers whose refund takes longer, you may be wondering why.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- Estimated tax refund schedule for 2023 tax returns.
- The tax refund process.
- Factors that could affect the timing of your refund.
- How to speed up your tax refund.
- How to track your refund status with the IRS.
- Credits that may delay your refund for 2023 taxes.
Estimated IRS refund tax schedule for 2023 tax returns
Generally, the sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few dates to keep in mind, such as:
Date returns are accepted
The estimated first day the IRS will allow for e-filing is around January 18, 2024. However, keep in mind this date is before the January 31 documentation deadline. If you file this early, it’s possible you could receive additional tax documents after you file.
EITC or ACTC refund date
For taxpayers who file a return that includes the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), there’s a complication. The IRS isn’t permitted to issue refunds for these credits before mid-February and Feb. 28 is the date the IRS says refunds should be available.
The deadline to file your 2023 tax return is Monday, April 15, 2024. For taxpayers filing an extension, the deadline is October 15, 2024. Late tax returns are accepted via e-file until November.
The tax-refund process involves a number of steps that start with you collecting your tax data and filing your taxes.
Collect your data
You’ll see tax documents—such as Form W-2 from an employer or 1099 Forms if you are a freelancer—start to show up in your mailbox in January or early February. You’ll also want to locate your tax return from previous years, business expense logs (if applicable), and other documentation if you itemize deductions (for example, childcare expenses paid to Care.com). Keep everything you receive in a single file for easy organization.
File your taxes
The next step is to input the information and file your tax return. There is no shortage of providers if you want to e-file your tax return. They all have different features and benefits. Some are paid while others are completely free. Others use AI to help file your taxes.
Recommended software specifically for filing taxes:
Money-management software with tax-filing integration:
The IRS receives your tax return
This step simply means that your tax return has made it to the IRS. If e-filing, an accepted return is a great sign. This usually means the IRS hasn’t found any basic errors, such as a mistyped Social Security number or dependent information, in the electronic return.
The IRS approves your refund
It can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks to process your return and approve a refund. If there are errors or corrections needed, the IRS will send you a letter. If there are no errors or issues with your refund, the IRS will approve it.
The IRS sends you a refund
This is the last step you’ll see updated in the IRS’ Where’s My Refund? tool. If you selected to receive your tax return via direct deposit, you may see it almost immediately in your bank account, though the IRS says to allow your bank time to process the return.
Factors that could affect the timing of your refund
Several factors determine when you’ll receive your refund.
How you filed your return
The biggest factor in the delay for most taxpayers is if you filed your return by mail. E-filing is the fastest way to get your refund..
When you filed your return
If you filed your return close to the deadline, your tax refund could be delayed.
If the IRS needs more information to correct an error, it will send you a letter to communicate. Errors and corrections = a delay in how quickly you’ll receive your tax return.
Specific tax credits and forms that may delay your refund
- EITC or ACTC: As noted above, if your tax return claims the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit, you may see a delay if you filed early.
- Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation: Processing this form could take the IRS up to 14 weeks.
Identity theft or fraud
If the IRS suspects fraud, identity theft, or suspicious activity, your return will take longer to process while it works through these kinds of issues.
Needs further review
It’s not uncommon for the IRS to take more time reviewing a tax return.
How to speed up your tax refund
E-filing is the fastest option by far. If you want your tax refund faster, have your refund sent to you via direct deposit when you e-file.
This table summarizes the fastest way to receive your tax refund.
Fast, 21 days plus delivery time
Slowest, 4 to 6 weeks plus delivery time
As for the paper file option, it’s the processing time that takes so long. When the IRS receives a paper return, they need to enter it into their system by hand. Paper returns also tend to have more errors, so the IRS needs to make corrections before issuing a refund. In short, a return filed through the mail could drag on for months.
How to track your tax refund status with the IRS
There’s a nifty tool the IRS uses to track your refund status. It’s updated daily, so you’ll know very quickly if the IRS has accepted your return and when a refund is on its way. It’s called “Where’s My Refund?”
To use the tool, you’ll need the following information:
- Tax year you want to check (you can check previous tax years).
- Social Security number or taxpayer ID.
- Exact amount of your refund shown on your tax return.
- Filing status [single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, qualifying widow(er)].
After entering this information, you’ll see one of the following status updates:
- Return received.
- Refund approved.
- Refund sent.
If you have filed a paper return, the IRS says to allow at least four weeks to check your status. That says a lot about which method for filing your taxes is faster. Contrast that with an e-filed return that you can check within 24 hours.
TIME Stamp: For the fastest tax refund, go electronic
The quickest way to get your tax refund is to file your taxes electronically and choose direct deposit for your refund. E-filing also produces tax returns that tend to be more accurate.
If you need to send a paper return, be prepared to wait around six weeks for a refund.
To check the status of your tax refund, use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool from the IRS.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How long is it taking to get tax refunds right now?
If you want to know the status of your tax refund at any given time, take a look at the IRS “Where’s My Refund?” tool. If you e-filed, you can typically expect your refund back within 21 days. Mailed returns take four to eight weeks, and if you’re filing close to the deadline, you can expect to be on the longer end of that estimate.
How soon will I get my tax refund via direct deposit?
Though your individual situation may vary, the IRS claims that nine out of 10 tax refunds are issued within 21 days to those who e-file and elect to have the funds direct deposit.
When will the IRS deposit tax refunds with a child tax credit?
The IRS cannot issue tax refunds that include an additional child tax credit (ACTC) or earned income tax credit (EITC) until mid-February. While the earliest you could receive it, the IRS says you can expect it by February 28 if you file electronically, receive your refund via direct deposit, and there are no issues with your return.