Where’s Your Tax Refund? Debunking Myths About Timing

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Where’s Your Tax Refund? Debunking Myths About Timing

So you filed your taxes on April 18th and now your anxiously watching the mailbox for that refund check.

Most people, when they find out they’re getting a tax refund, are pretty antsy to get their hands on it. But there are plenty of misconceptions about how and when that money arrives. Here are four common myths about tax refund timing.

Myth: The IRS takes forever to issue a refund.
Reality: You can speed up the process.

Two things can help. First, avoid filing your return on paper — the IRS typically takes six to eight weeks to process those returns. Instead, file electronically — those returns are processed in about three weeks.
Second, when you file your return, tell the IRS to deposit a refund directly into your bank account instead of sending a paper check. That cuts the time in waiting for the mail. You even can have the IRS split your refund across your retirement, health savings, college savings or other accounts so that you don’t fritter it away.

Myth: There’s no way to tell where your refund is until you get it.
Reality: You can monitor it.

Once you’ve filed your return, you can track your refund with the IRS and your state (if you also are getting a refund from your state).
If you file using tax software or through a tax pro, you can start tracking your federal refund 24 hours after the IRS receives your return. (On mailed returns, you’ll have to wait four weeks.) If you haven’t received a refund after at least 21 days of e-filing or six weeks of mailing your paper return, you can go to a local IRS office or call the federal agency at 800-829-1040 and have someone look into it. But that won’t fast-track your refund, according to the IRS.

Myth: Refund theft gets corrected quickly once you file your real return.
Reality: Don’t expect a quick resolution.

Thefts of refunds generally happen when fraudsters access a taxpayer’s personal information and file a fake tax return under the person’s name in order to pocket the refund. If you fall victim to such fraud, it can delay your refund. But there are ways to cope. Be patient — a typical case of refund theft can take four months to resolve, and complicated cases can take even longer, according to the IRS.

Myth: The IRS is delaying everyone’s refunds this year.
Reality: That delay is over, and it didn’t impact everyone.

This tax season, the IRS began holding back certain refunds until Feb. 15 for returns that had claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Fraudsters target these returns because these credits can be refundable.

The delay was worrying to taxpayers who filed early in the tax season, but that’s over. The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days.

Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: torem@nerdwallet.com.

The article Where’s My Tax Refund? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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