When Can I Expect My Tax Refund? The IRS refund schedule for 2019

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As soon as you hit the submit button on your taxes, do you instantly start wondering, “when can I expect my tax refund?”

The majority of people hate doing taxes. Taxes are complicated, time-consuming and expensive. But if you think you’re entitled to a tax refund, that can make tax time a little less … taxing.

As in most years, the tax return deadline is April 15 in 2019. The deadline falls on a Monday this year. New tax laws may change how you do your taxes, so be sure to get started early enough to take those changes into account.

Here’s everything you need to know about when you can expect your tax refund and how to spend your refund money wisely.

Should I Hire an Accountant or Tax Advisor?

When it comes to filing your taxes, you can choose to file yourself or have an accountant file for you.

If you opt for a tax accountant or CPA, you should expect higher fees than you would with a program like Turbotax but much less stress. If you are filing your taxes on your own, be sure to check out the cheapest ways to file your taxes online.

Outsourcing your taxes to a professional might be a good idea if you have a business, plan to itemize deductions, have rental properties, or have a combination of these issues.

Whether you choose to DIY your taxes or use a tax professional, make sure you file your taxes by April 15th. If you are unable to file by the deadline, you can request an extension, but you will have to pay interest on any money you owe. 

Once you file your taxes, you may be wondering when you’ll actually get your money. The IRS makes this slightly more complicated than just direct depositing the funds in your bank account the next day.

Here is the actual process of getting your tax refund processed.

When Can I Expect My Tax Refund?

The IRS’s official answer is that you can expect your refund in fewer than 21 calendar days once your tax return has been approved.

The IRS does not release any formal calendar, but this year, it began taking tax returns on January 28th, 2019. However, if you filed with an Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) or Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you had to wait to file until February 15th, 2019. Congress passed a law last year on this issue to avoid duplicate returns and minimize fraud.  

While there is no formal calendar released by the IRS, here is an estimate on when you can expect to receive your tax refund. This tax refund calendar is based on the 21 days estimated payment cycle. 

IRS Refund Schedule Chart (Estimated)

Tax Return AcceptedDirect Deposit SentPaper Check Mailed
Jan 28 – Feb 4, 2019Feb 17, 2019Feb 24, 2019
Feb 5 – Feb 11, 2019Feb 24, 2019Mar 3, 2019
Feb 12 – Feb 18, 2019Mar 3, 2019Mar 10, 2019
Feb 19 – Feb 25, 2019Mar 10, 2019Mar 17, 2019
Feb 27 – Mar 4, 2019Mar 17, 2019Mar 24, 2019
Mar 5 – Mar 11, 2019Mar 24, 2019Mar 31, 2019
Mar 12 – Mar 18, 2019Mar 31, 2019Apr 7, 2019
Mar 19 – Mar 25, 2019Apr 7, 2019Apr 14, 2019
Mar 26 – Apr 1, 2019Apr 14, 2019Apr 21, 2019
Apr 2 – Apr 8, 2019Apr 21, 2019April 28, 2019
Apr 9 – Apr 15, 2019April 28, 2019May 5, 2019
Apr 16 – Apr 22, 2019May 5, 2019May 12, 2019
Apr 23 – Apr 29, 2019May 12, 2019May 19, 2019

Please remember this schedule is a guideline and the IRS doesn’t have to adhere to it.

Your refund may come sooner or later than the estimated payout dates. I recommend not making any huge financial plans based on your refund payment date, as delays can (and do) happen.

Besides your refund payment being delayed, there are a ton of common tax refund questions that I’d like to debunk so you know what to do should one of these events happen to you this year.

13 Other Tax Refund FAQs

Below are some of the most common questions people ask about their tax refunds.

Is there a place to track my refund online?

Yes, the IRS does have a site to track your refunds online. The Where’s My Refund tool is accessible by computer. You can also use the IRS2Go Mobile app to track your refund using a smartphone. To start tracking your refund, you will need your Social Security number or TIN, filing status, and the exact amount of the refund you’re expecting.

The site should have your information within 24 hours of filing your electronic return. If you send a paper return, it usually takes four weeks after filing for your information to show up on the tracking site.

If your status says received, the IRS has received the return and is processing it. Once the IRS approves your return, it will update your status online and give you an estimated return date.

After your tax refund has been approved, the IRS will direct deposit the funds to your bank account or send a check if you selected that option. Most bank transfers are completed within two to three business days, but they can take up to five days depending on the institution.

If you opted to receive a check, it takes much longer to process. Usually, it is an additional two weeks, as it is not expedited and is sent without priority mail.

With the Where’s My Refund tool, you are able to track the entire tax refund process, from when your return was received to when the funds were sent to your bank account.

What about my state tax refund?

Everything discussed so far is in regards to your federal tax refund. If you have a state tax refund as well it might be a little longer to receive, as they are separate transactions.

State tax refunds are typically processed within 30 days if you filed electronically and up to 12 weeks if you filed a paper return.

You might be wondering if your state has a tool to track your refund like the Where’s My Refund tracker tool. The answer is that some states do and others don’t. If you have questions about your state tax refund status, check your state’s department of revenue website or call your state tax agency.

I really need my refund for an important purchase. Will I actually receive it within the suggested 21 days?  

There are a lot of different factors that will affect the timing of when you actually receive your tax refund. While the IRS says it will usually take less than 21 days, it can take longer.

Alternatively, some people receive their refunds quite quickly. However, I wouldn’t count on that.

Personally speaking, I have received most refunds within 13-17 days over the past three years. The IRS also says that nine out of 10 people receive their refunds within 13 days.

Remember, the payment is also delayed with bank holidays, weekends, and if you choose a check instead of direct deposit.

It’s been longer than 21 days. Why haven’t I gotten my refund? Should I contact the IRS?

I would recommend staying patient for a few more days before contacting the IRS. There are several very common reasons for delayed tax returns: 

  • Errors when you filed your return.
  • Something is incomplete and the IRS might need more information.
  • You were victim to identity theft in the past year.
  • You filed a Form 8379 (Injured Spouse Allocation). This could add 14 days to the time when your tax refund is sent.

If you had an error or the IRS needs more information, they will reach out via mail to ask for more documents and inform you of the next steps. You can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1954 or 1-800-829-4477 and speak with a representative to learn more about your tax refund.

If I call the IRS, will I get my tax refund faster?

From what I’ve read, no, it will not speed up the process. Also, I imagine this would be as much fun as calling about a lost passport or contacting the DMV.

According to the IRS website, they are unable to even review the status of your refund until it is at least 21 days after you filed online. If you filed with mail-in tax forms, they can’t access your refund until six weeks later.

What if I entered the wrong routing or bank account number for my refund? Will my tax refund be delayed or not accepted?

I’ve made this error in the past. If you’re even one digit off on the account number or routing number for your bank account, the IRS will not be able to direct deposit your tax refund.

Once you’ve submitted your tax return, you can’t edit your information. The IRS will default to sending you a check to the address listed on your return, which will add on a few weeks.

How long does it normally take for my tax refund status to change from “return received” to “refund approved?”

Sometimes a few days, but it could take longer depending on your tax situation.

How Often is the “Where’s My Refund” Tracker Updated Online?

The Where’s My Refund tracker is only updated once per day, typically at night. There is no need to refresh the tracker throughout the day.  

Will the “Where’s My Refund” Tracker work for any amended returns as well?

No, the tracker is only good for normal tax returns, not amended ones. There is a separate tracker, Where’s My Amended Return, that lets you track your amended return.

All amended returns are processed manually and take much longer to process than a normal a tax return. Don’t contact the IRS within four months of sending an amended return, as they are unable to access your returns before then.

I wanted direct deposit for my tax refund. Why is the IRS sending me a check?  

Although rare, this happens for three main reasons:  

  • The account you entered is not in your name or is a joint account with your spouse. Make sure you always have your name spelled correctly and that it matches the exact name on your bank account.
  • Your bank or financial institution may reject the direct deposit.
  • The IRS cannot deposit more than three electronic refunds into one account.  

Why is my refund different than the amount on the tax return I filed?

If you have past due amounts on specific taxes, all or part of your refund will be used for payments due.

These past due taxes could include:

  • State income tax
  • Federal tax
  • State unemployment compensation debts
  • Spousal support
  • Child support
  • Federal non-tax debts like student loans

Sometimes the IRS will alter your refund amount if they have made any changes to your taxes. They will alert you in the Where’s My Refund tracker if this happens.

What should I do if the refund I receive is not from my tax account?

In some instances, the IRS will make an error and send a check or direct deposit to the wrong recipient. Do not cash the check or use the money. If this happens to you, follow these steps.

If I order a transcript, will that help me find out more details on when I will get my tax refund?

No, a tax transcript will not shed any more light on when you will receive your tax refund. Transcripts are great for keeping for your own personal records and can validate your past income and loan applications for student loans or a small business. They can also help with future tax returns.

Once you finally receive your tax refund, you might want to spend it all on fun stuff. But, there are tons of better ways to spend your tax refund.

6 Great Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

It’s understandable to feel relieved and excited when you find out you’re getting a nice tax refund. You may want to celebrate by going out and blowing all the money.

But it’s important to not just mindlessly spend the money. Instead, use it to reach your financial goals.

Here are six great ways to spend your tax refund:

1. Create or Increase Your Emergency Fund

Did you know that 52% of the population can’t afford to pay for a $1,000 unexpected expense like a medical bill or car repair without using a credit card? An emergency fund will help you through tough situations and minimize your money-related stress.

Be sure to always keep your emergency fund in a high yield savings account as opposed to a CD or retirement account, as those have fees for withdrawing the money. Work your way up to having at least six months’ salary saved in one of these high yield bank accounts.

2. Start Saving for Retirement

Once you have an emergency fund, it’s time to start thinking about your future retirement and investing your money in a retirement account. While you can’t use your tax refund for a 401K, as contributions need to come from earned income, opening or contributing to an IRA is another great option.

Thanks to compound interest, the earlier you start investing, the more you will be rewarded in the future.

3. Pay Down Debt

An unexpected tax refund is a great way to make additional payments toward any outstanding debt.

Start paying down debt with the highest interest or highest amount to save tons of money on interest. For more information on paying off debt, be sure to check out our program, Debt Free in 18 Months to learn how Well Kept Wallet founder Deacon Hayes paid off $52,000 in 18 months!

4. Open a 529 College Savings Plan

If you’ve been in debt, I’m sure you don’t want your child to face the average $30,000 worth of student loan debt upon graduation. Open a college savings plan to start funding their future education costs.

The best part is that a 529 college savings plan is tax-free as long as the recipient uses the money for college expenses!

5. Start a Side Hustle

Most side hustles are very cheap to start, but there still may be some fees and expenses associated with them. Use your tax refund to fund your first side hustle and start earning more money outside of your 9-5.

Check out these creative side hustles to start making money today!

6. Enjoy Yourself

If you’re doing one or several of the above tips, use some of the money from your tax refund to enjoy yourself. Take your spouse to a nice dinner, book a quick weekend getaway, or do something else that your family will enjoy.

Life is all about balance. Don’t forget to reward yourself for paying off debt and saving for your future.

How to Pay Less Taxes Next Year

Once you have submitted your taxes, start looking at ways you can get a larger refund next year (or just pay less in taxes to begin with and keep that money instead of giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan). Here are some easy ways to look ahead to next year and pay the lowest taxes possible.

Contribute to Retirement Funds

One of the easiest ways to reduce your taxes is by contributing to a traditional IRA or employer-sponsored 401K.

While there are differences in the two accounts, both will lower your taxable income for the following year. You can contribute up to $19,000 in a 401K and $6,000 in an IRA for 2019. If you’re able to max out your 401K and traditional IRA you will be able to deduct $25,000 from your taxable income!

Even if you can only invest $1,000, it will help you save money on taxes and start saving for your future. In addition, if you are over 50 years old, you can contribute an extra $6,000 toward your 401K and $1,000 toward an IRA.

Get Started Early

The earlier you start and file your taxes, the quicker you will receive your tax refund. If you get started early, you can also take your time and see if it makes sense to itemize deductions or not.

Although the new tax law means it makes more sense for many people to take the standard deduction and not itemize, you may find that you can indeed benefit from itemizing. Some examples of items you could deduct include job searching expenses, large charitable donations, and unreimbursed business expenses.


Remember, the upcoming tax deadline for 2019 is Monday, April 15th. File your taxes before the deadline or apply for an extension if you are unable to have them completed by that date.

If you have a complicated situation, a tax accountant might make things easier and save you more in tax breaks.

When it comes to filing your taxes and getting your refund as fast as possible, make sure to always file online and choose direct deposit for payment. Sending in a paper return and/or requesting a check for payment will add weeks to getting your tax refund.

The IRS’s Where’s My Refund tracking tool and mobile app are great resources for following your tax refund from beginning to end. While you should get your tax refund within 21 days, sometimes it may take longer and you might need to provide more information.

Make sure you file on time, enter the correct bank account information, and avoid contacting the IRS unless it is after the 21-day deadline. 

Before you spend any of your tax refund money, find a way to align it with your current financial goals. Evaluate if you need to pay down debt, save up for an emergency fund, invest for retirement, or spend some on a fun experience with your family.

What do you plan to do with your tax refund from 2019? Spend, save or invest it? Let us know in the comments section.


One response to “When Can I Expect My Tax Refund? The IRS refund schedule for 2019”

  1. John says:

    How about all the people who get those hefty federal ‘earned income’ refunds be made to use them to offset medical insurance so the middle class can see some lower premiums and deductibles. Yeah, that would be nice. Any money we get back, somehow ,someway, the government sucks it right back.

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