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. They are complicated, time-consuming, expensive, and sometimes you might even owe more money to the IRS. Sound familiar?
This year I was able to get a refund and I couldn’t have been happier! I had to pay several thousand dollars the past two years, so this was a nice change. Doing your taxes is already boring and complicated enough, but having to pay even more money was a painful experience!
After learning this hard lesson, I always prefer to pay more throughout the year so I can get a tax refund the following year.
This year there was a big change to the tax law that was passed in December. But, these laws will not go into effect until income earned in 2018. So, your taxes for 2017 will remain unchanged.
Here’s everything you need to know about when you can expect your tax refund and how to get a bigger tax refund in the future.
Should I Hire an Accountant or Tax Advisor?
2018 is a little different than most years as the normal deadline, April 15th, falls on a weekend meaning your taxes aren’t due until April 17th.
When it comes to filing your taxes you can choose to file yourself or have an accountant or CPA file for you.
If you opt for a tax accountant or CPA you should expect higher fees than a program like Turbotax but much less stress. If you are filing your taxes on your own, be sure to check out these ways to file your taxes cheap 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 a combination of these items. Either way, make sure you file your taxes by April 17th and if you are unable to file by the deadline request an extension.
Once you file your taxes, you may be wondering when do you actually get the 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.
The Number One Tax Question: When Can I Expect My Tax Refund?
The IRS’s official answer is 21 calendar days once your tax return has been approved.
For 9 out of 10 taxpayers you will receive the funds in less than the allotted 21 days, usually, it’s closer to the 10-14 day range.
The IRS does not release any formal calendar but returns were able to be submitted beginning on January 29th, 2018. But, 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, 2018. 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)
|Refund Date Accepted||Direct Deposit Sent||Paper Check Mailed|
|Jan 29 – Feb 4, 2018||Feb 17, 2018||Feb 24, 2018|
|Feb 5 – Feb 11, 2018||Feb 24, 2018||Mar 3, 2018|
|Feb 12 – Feb 18, 2018||Mar 3, 2018||Mar 10, 2018|
|Feb 19 – Feb 25, 2018||Mar 10, 2018||Mar 17, 2018|
|Feb 27 – Mar 4, 2018||Mar 17, 2018||Mar 24, 2018|
|Mar 5 – Mar 11, 2018||Mar 24, 2018||Mar 31, 2018|
|Mar 12 – Mar 18, 2018||Mar 31, 2018||Apr 7, 2018|
|Mar 19 – Mar 25, 2018||Apr 7, 2018||Apr 14, 2018|
|Mar 26 – Apr 1, 2018||Apr 14, 2018||Apr 21, 2018|
|Apr 2 – Apr 8, 2018||Apr 21, 2018||April 28, 2018|
|Apr 9 – Apr 15, 2018||April 28, 2018||May 5, 2018|
|Apr 16 – Apr 22, 2018||May 5, 2018||May 12, 2018|
|Apr 23 – Apr 29, 2018||May 12, 2018||May 19, 2018|
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.
While getting a tax refund can be an extra boost of income don’t use this chart with 100% certainty.
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.
15 Other Most Common Tax Refund Questions
How quickly will I get my tax refund?
The IRS issues most refunds within 21 calendar days once your tax refund has been approved.
Is there a place to track my refund online?
Yes, the IRS does have a site to track your refunds online: https://www.irs.gov/refunds, or you can use the IRS2Go Mobile app. You will need your social security number or TIN, filing status, and exact refund amount to start tracking your refund.
You can start checking on the site usually within 24 hours of filing your electronic return. If you sent a paper return, it usually takes 4 weeks after filing.
If your status says received, the IRS has received the return and they are processing it. Once the IRS approves your return, they will update 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 2-3 business days but 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 received to having the funds in 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.
Unfortunately, the state doesn’t have a tool to track your refund like the “Where’s My Tracker Tool.” 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 be close to 21 days, it can still take longer.
Personally speaking, I have received most refunds within 13-17 days the past three years. The IRS also says 9 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.
- Your refund be affected if you were victim to identity theft in the past year.
- Filed a Form 8379 (Injured Spouse Allocation). This could add an additional 14 days to your tax refund.
If you had an error or the IRS needs more information, they will reach out through mail to receive 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.
I claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on my tax return. When can I expect my refund?
After Congress passed the PATH (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes) act last year the IRS cannot issue ACTC or EITC refunds until February 14th.
They estimate that refunds should be available via direct deposit by February 27th, 2018.
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 6 weeks later.
What if I entered the wrong routing or checking number for my refund? Will my tax refund not be accepted or delayed?
Not to worry, 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, they will not be able to direct deposit your tax refund.
Once submitted, you can’t edit within Turbotax or similar online tax refund software. They will default to sending you a check to the address listed on your returns 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” where you can track your amended refund.
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 your refund will be all or partially 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 when 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 or use the checks.
If this happens to you follow these steps for more information on what to do next. Be sure to not cash the refund check or spend the direct deposit refund as it will be owed.
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 estimated tax refund. Transcripts are great to keep for your own personal records and can validate your past income, loan applications for student loan or small business and 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 great ways to spend your tax refund. Check out some of the best ways to use your tax refund:
6 Great Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund
You might have been expecting a tax refund or might get an unexpected surprise from Uncle Sam. Either way, it’s important to not just mindlessly spend the money but 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? Emergency funds 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 there are fees to withdraw 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. While you can’t use your tax refund for a 401(k), 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 towards any outstanding debt.
Start paying down debt with the highest interest or highest amount to save tons of money interest. For more information on paying off debt be sure to check out our program, Debt Free in 18 Months to learn how Deacon 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 $38,000 worth of 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 using the money for college expenses!
5. Start a Side Hustle
Most side hustles are very cheap to start but there are still some fees and expenses associated with most side hustles. 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 Get a Bigger Tax Refund Next Year
Once you have submitted your taxes, start looking at ways you can get a larger refund next year. Here are some easy ways to look ahead to next year and ensure you get your biggest refund possible.
Contribute to Retirement Funds
One of the easiest ways to reduce your taxes is 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 $18,500 and $5,500 for an IRA for 2018. If you’re able to max out your 401K and Roth IRA you will be able to deduct $24,000 from your taxable income!
Even if you can only invest a $1,000 or $3,000, it will help you save money on taxes and start saving for your future. Plus if you are over 50 years old you can contribute an extra $1,000 toward each retirement account.
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 do an itemized deduction or not.
You may find you can itemize your deductions and get an even bigger tax refund. Some examples could include job searching expenses, large charitable donations, and unreimbursed business expenses.
Remember, the upcoming tax deadline for 2018 is April 17th as the 15th falls on a Sunday. File your taxes before the deadline or apply for an extension if you are unable to have them completed by April 17th.
If you have a complicated situation a tax accountant or Certified Professional 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 your taxes in with paper 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 to follow your tax refund from the beginning to being deposited into your bank account. 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.
Does this help you understand the tax refund process? What do you plan to do with your tax refund from 2018? Spend, save, or invest it?