Getting Your Tax Refunds

Getting Your Tax Refunds

It takes a while for the IRS to credit funds to taxpayers after they submit their tax returns. Curious about what happens in that period? Read on to find out what happens to taxpayers’ tax returns before they receive their refunds.

How to Get Your Tax Refund FAST

The Steps

Whether they file using a tax rebate program like Turbotax or they head to an accountant for help, the first step after a taxpayer calls it a day and finishes his or her return is sent to the IRS, short for the Internal Revenue Service. It can be sent in either electronically or by mail.

It takes between 24 and 48 hours for the IRS to accept an electronically filed tax return. That time frame will be much longer for returns submitted by mail since they also have to wait for the return to be delivered. Once the IRS receives the return, one of its agents will check all the filer’s information against its database to make sure that the personal information matches the agency’s records.

If all the information on the form looks correct, the IRS will accept the return. At this point, taxpayers are on the agency’s payment timetable. There’s no telling exactly how long it will take for the money to be returned to them, although most years it takes less than three weeks.

Checking the Status of a Refund

There are two ways for taxpayers to check the status of their refunds. They can call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1954 and speak with one of the agency’s representatives or they can use the agency’s online tracker. Taxpayers can access the official refund tracker on their computers or they can download the agency’s app for their mobile phones.

Taxpayers can start checking the status of their refunds 24 hours after e-filing. If they mail their returns, they won’t be able to use this feature until four weeks after they put them in the mail. The IRS usually updates the system overnight, so there’s no point in checking more than once a day.

If it’s been 21 days since taxpayers have e-filed their returns or six weeks since they’ve mailed their paper returns, they can call (800) 829-1040 or head to a local IRS office. This won’t fast-track their refund payments, but it will bring the issue to the attention of a staff member who can look into the delay.

When it’s Worth Calling

It’s usually easier for taxpayers to check their refund status online. They should not call the IRS unless they have already passed the 21-day benchmark for e-filing or the six-week benchmark for mailed returns, they suspect that they have become the victims of tax fraud, or the refund tracker tells them they should call. It’s usually a waste of time.

Tips for Speeding Up the Process

There are two ways that taxpayers can speed up the process of getting their refunds. The first is to file online. The IRS typically processes electronically filed tax returns within three weeks, while it takes six to eight weeks to process paper returns.

A second way to speed up the process is to choose direct deposit instead of requesting a paper check, which would have to be sent through the mail. Consumers can have their refunds split up across various accounts, too, making it easier for them to save their money. It’s really a win-win.

Common Reasons for Delay

Common reasons for delay range from math mistakes and unfortunate typos to incorrect timing. Trying to file a tax return too early can also lead to delays since the IRS may not yet have finalized the year’s forms. Unsurprisingly, filing at the last minute can be equally problematic since the sudden increase in forms often leads to processing delays.

How to Resolve Tax Return Fraud

Tax return fraud happens when someone accesses a taxpayer’s personal information to file a fake return under his or her name. This allows the fraudster to pocket the refund. The IRS will help legitimate taxpayers resolve the issue but it often takes four months or longer.

The best thing for a consumer who has fallen prey to an IRS tax fraud to do is to fill out and submit IRS Form 14039 as soon as he or she has received a notification from the agency. The notification will say that the taxpayer has already filed a return and it can come in the form of a letter from the IRS after submitting a paper form or an error message from tax software for electronic filers. Form 14039 is an affidavit that shows that the filer has become a victim of tax return fraud or identity theft and they should submit it via certified mail.

Taxpayers will still need to file their correct returns on time if they want to get their refunds. They should submit a paper copy of the correct tax return with Form 14039, along with a copy of the taxpayer’s driver’s license or another valid form of photo ID. The IRS may ask for further documentation, such as copies of previous years’ tax returns or utility bills, and will send all communication via the United States Post Office (USPS).

What to Do While Waiting for a Return

Whether they’re having issues with tax fraud that are delaying their payments or it’s just taking a while for the IRS to process their returns, many taxpayers find themselves strapped for cash while they wait for their returns. They can take out loans from their banks or specialized financial institutions like King of Kash to take out installment loans that can help them stay afloat until they receive their refunds.

The Bottom Line

It takes a while for the IRS to process a tax return, even if it’s filed correctly and on time. Taxpayers can generally expect to get their refunds within 21 days of filing online or six weeks of filing by mail but these deadlines aren’t hard and fast. Those who are having trouble paying bills while they wait for their refunds can take out loans, but there’s no way to speed up the process of getting a tax refund from the government.