According to the IRS, they will issue “most refunds in 21 days or less.” Every year it was a constant debate on what to do with my tax refund. Should I go on a trip? Should I pay off my student loans? Or should I invest the money?
With a few calculations, I discovered that if I have a tax refund of $2,000 each year and invest it in the market for 15 years at 8%, I will yield about $54,000.
That’s when I started investing my tax return. This may not be the right solution for everyone, but it was the best solution for me.
Still, no matter what you plan to do with your refund, the wait for the money to arrive in your bank account or your mailbox can seem interminable. The IRS used to release a tax refund table each year, which would offer filers an idea of when to expect their refunds based upon when they filed.
However, the IRS has ceased offering this tax refund table, meaning filers are left wondering if they will see their refund within the promised “less than 21 days” window.
If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, check out the free version of Turbo Tax and get that ball rolling!
If You e-filed Your Tax Return
So how do you find out when your tax refund check will be mailed, or when your direct deposit will be sent? If you e-file, it’s easy to find out. You have a couple of tools at your disposal.
First, the IRS’s “where’s my refund?” site is a great place to find out where your refund is. You can also call the Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954. The IRS suggests waiting 24 hours after your return has been e-filed to start checking on the status.
Secondly, you can also download the IRS2Go app on either your iPhone or any Android phone, and you can check the status of your federal tax refund once you file.
Downloading the IRS2Go App gives you five different modules. In the first, you can check the status of your refund by simply entering your social security number, filing status, and refund amount (in whole dollars). I tested it out and was quickly told that I must have entered some information incorrectly. I haven’t filed yet, so that makes sense. The other features are:
- Payments: Make tax payments through the IRS2Go App. You can choose to pay directly from your bank account or with a debit or credit card. After selecting your payment method, you will be redirected to a website to make a payment.
- Free Tax Help: This tab will give you options for free tax software as well as locators for tax preparation for the elderly and other specific groups.
- Connect: Connect with the IRS through Twitter (@IRSnews) or with the IRS YouTube channel. You can also subscribe to get tax tips emailed to you during that tax-filing season and periodically throughout the year.
- Security: This sets up an extra layer of security when using certain IRS online services.
Now keep in mind that amended, prior year, and business tax returns aren’t available through the website or app.
The Estimated e-File Refund Cycle Chart
Finally, you could take a gander at our estimated IRS e-file refund cycle chart:
|Date Accepted||Direct Deposit Sent||Paper Check Mailed|
|Jan 15 – 19, 2023||2/5/2023||2/9/2023|
|Jan 20 – 26, 2023||2/12/2023||2/16/2023|
|Jan 27 – Feb 2, 2023||2/19/2023||2/23/2023|
|Feb 3 – 9, 2023||2/26/2023||3/2/2023|
|Feb 10 – 16, 2023||3/4/2023||3/9/2023|
|Feb 17 – 23, 2023||3/12/2023||3/23/2023|
|Feb 24 – Mar 2, 2023||3/19/2023||3/23/2023|
|Mar 3 – 9, 2023||3/26/2023||3/30/2023|
|Mar 10 – 16, 2023||4/2/2023||4/6/2023|
|Mar 17 – 23, 2023||4/9/2023||4/13/2023|
|Mar 24 – 30, 2023||4/16/2023||4/20/2023|
|Mar 31 – Apr 6, 2023||4/23/2023||4/27/2023|
|Apr 7 – Apr 13, 2023||4/30/2023||5/4/2023|
|Apr 14 – Apr 20, 2023||5/7/2023||5/11/2023|
|Apr 21 – Apr 27, 2023||5/14/2023||5/18/2023|
Keep in mind those numbers are purely estimates. The IRS has NOT released one of these charts for the current filing season, and they do not plan to. For more guidance on this, you should see their refund guide for tax preparers.
You could also look at the 2012 IRS e-file Refund Cycle Chart, which is the last year that the IRS provided this information. That year’s chart can give you a rough estimate of what to expect for this year. Here are the first few weeks of the chart:
|Transmitted and Accepted by IRS between||Direct Deposit Sent||Paper Check Mailed|
|Jan 13 and Jan 19, 2012||Thursday, January 26, 2012||Monday, January 30, 2012|
|Jan 20 and Jan 26, 2012||Thursday, February 02, 2012||Monday, February 06, 2012|
|Jan 27 and Feb 02, 2012||Thursday, February 09, 2012||Monday, February 13, 2012|
|Feb 03 and Feb 09, 2012||Thursday, February 16, 2012||Monday, February 20, 2012|
|Feb 10 and Feb 16, 2012||Thursday, February 23, 2012||Monday, February 27, 2012|
|Feb 17 and Feb 23, 2012||Thursday, March 01, 2012||Monday, March 05, 2012|
|Feb 24 and Mar 1, 2012||Thursday, March 08, 2012||Monday, March 12, 2012|
|Mar 02 and Mar 08, 2012||Thursday, March 15, 2012||Monday, March 19, 2012|
|Mar 09 and Mar 15, 2012||Thursday, March 22, 2012||Monday, March 26, 2012|
|Mar 16 and Mar 22, 2012||Thursday, March 29, 2012||Monday, April 02, 2012|
|Mar 23 and Mar 29, 2012||Thursday, April 05, 2012||Monday, April 09, 2012|
|Mar 30 and Apr 5, 2012||Thursday, April 12, 2012||Monday, April 16, 2012|
|Apr 06 and Apr 12, 2012||Thursday, April 19, 2012||Monday, April 23, 2012|
|Apr 13 and Apr 19, 2012||Thursday, April 26, 2012||Monday, April 30, 2012|
Note that the chart shows when the check or direct deposit will be sent, not necessarily received by you. Keep in mind, this is only for those who have chosen to e-file their return. Also, the IRS disclaims that this isn’t a guarantee that your return will be sent on these dates.
If You Mailed Your Return
If you file your return by mail, expect a longer wait. The IRS hasn’t put together a handy calendar for you. Those days are over. So you’ll have to deal with this generic rule: according to the IRS, if your paper return is complete and accurate, you should receive your return six to eight weeks from the time the IRS received your return.
Note that after the four-week mark, you should be able to call into the IRS or use the website or app mentioned above and locate the status of your return.
Why You Get a Tax Refund
The answer to why you get a tax refund is fairly simple. You have more taxes withheld from your paychecks than you owe the IRS. Because of this, they issue a refund.
Deductions you on your tax forms could also play a role in receiving a tax refund. Deductions decrease your taxable income. Popular deductions include various medical expenses, charitable contributions, property taxes, and mortgage interest.
Tax credits are another way that your taxable income can drop, increasing your chances of a refund. Tax credits could include the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and Retirement Savings Contributions Credit.
Is it Better to Receive a Large Tax Refund or Have More Money in Your Paycheck Every Week?
While it’s fun to get a big, fat tax refund every year, you need to ask yourself “Does it make sense to get a tax refund?” Maybe you’ve never thought about it. You’ve always got one, and it’s better than owing money to the IRS. Perhaps you use your refund to fund a family vacation or to pay off a chunk of your debt. Some people view it as a free shopping spree while others choose to save their tax refund.
The reality is that you don’t have to get one necessarily. Making some changes to your income withholding would allow for fewer taxes to be taken out, leaving you with bigger paychecks year round. What you are doing is giving the government an interest-free loan. You could be putting your money to work for you right away instead of waiting to get a big refund check.
What could you be doing with the extra money in your paychecks if you changed your tax withholding?
- Pay off debt, such as credit cards or student loans (Here’s how)
- Deposit it in a high yield savings account (Here are the top high yield savings accounts)
- Invest the extra money (Here are the best robo-advisors)
- Add it to college funds for your kids (Check out our complete guide to 529s)
- Create or expand your emergency fund
- Increase your monthly budget
- Adjust your 401(k) contributions
Admittedly, it’s always nice to receive a big refund check. It is. However, if you are trying to reach specific financial goals, it might make more sense to have access to that money now instead of waiting for the IRS to send it back to you.
How to Better Estimate Taxes for the Year
To better estimate your taxes, consider doing a paycheck review.
Do this, grab last year’s tax return and your most recent pay stub. Take a look at what is currently being withheld from your paycheck vs what you actually owed. If you want a smaller tax refund (and more money in your paycheck) you’ll want to get your withholdings as close to your actual tax liability as possible.
Let’s say you paid $6,000 in federal taxes. To figure out what you would you owe per paycheck simply divide $6,000 by the number of paychecks you receive per year. If you are paid every two weeks that is 26 paychecks. So you’d be looking to get your withholdings to $231 per paycheck.
To change your withholdings you will need to complete a new W-4 with your employer. Make a change and see how that affects your withholdings. It may take a few tries to nail it down, but that’s fine. You can fill out as many W-4s as you want.
If your situation changed (or changes) during the year what you paid last year might not be an accurate representation of what you will owe this year. For example, if you had a baby, got married, or had a big change in income your taxes can be affected significantly.
If this is the case, you’ll want to check out the IRS Withholding Calculator. This calculator will be able to tell you how much you should be withholding from your paycheck. Be sure to check out their tips section to make the most of their online tool.
With all of the factors that go into income taxes, like tax credits, deductions, and income streams, it won’t be easy to estimate your withholdings perfectly and end up with a zero refund. However, if you can get close, you will provide yourself with more income immediately to start putting your money to work for you instead of the government.
Also, err on the side of caution. Better to get a small refund than to owe money at tax time.
If you e-file you should receive your refund in 21 days. But consider if you actually want a refund or if you’d rather have more money in your paycheck.
Has the IRS generally followed the “within 21 days rule” with your refunds? How long did you wait for your last refund?