So you filed your income tax return which showed an overpayment and you requested a refund. Most people knowing that they have money coming back to them have probably figured how they are going to spend that money.
The IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible your tax return may require additional review and take longer. The IRS has a tool on its website called Where’s My Refund? This link has the most up to date information available about your refund. The tool is updated no more than once a day so you don’t need to check more often.
You can use Where’s My Refund? to start checking on the status of your return within 24 hours after the IRS has received your e-filed return or 4 weeks after you mail a paper return. Where’s My Refund? has a tracker that displays progress through 3 stages: (1) Return Received, (2) Refund Approved and (3) Refund Sent. You will get personalized refund information based on the processing of your tax return. The tool will provide an actual refund date as soon as the IRS processes your tax return and approves your refund.
Calling the IRS will not speed up your refund. The IRS phone and walk-in representatives can only research the status of your refund if it has been 21 days or more since you filed electronically, more than 6 weeks since you mailed your paper return, or Where’s My Refund?directs you to contact the IRS. If the IRS needs more information to process your tax return, the IRS will contact you by mail.
Ordering a transcript will not help you determine when you will get your refund. This is among the common myths and misconceptions that are often repeated in social media. The codes listed on tax transcripts do not provide any early insight into when a refund will be issued. The best way to check on your refund is by visiting Where’s My Refund?While transcripts include a lot of detailed information regarding actions taken on your account, the codes do not mean the same thing for everyone and they do not necessarily reflect how any of these actions do or do not impact the amount or timing of your refund. IRS transcripts are best and most often used to validate past income and tax filing status for mortgage, student and small business loan applications and to help with tax preparation.
If you owe past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support, or certain federal nontax debts, such as student loans, all or part of your refund may be used (offset) to pay the past-due amount. Offsets for federal taxes are made by the IRS. All other offsets are made by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Services (BFS). For federal tax offsets, you will receive a notice from the IRS. For all other offsets, you will receive a notice from BFS. To find out if you may have an offset or if you have any questions about it, contact the agency to which you owe the debt.
Another reason your refund amount may be different is if the IRS made changes to your tax return that changed your refund amount. In this case you will get a notice in the mail from the IRS explaining the changes.
If you filed a joint return and you are not responsible for your spouse’s debt, you are entitled to request a portion of the refund back from the IRS. You may file a claim for this amount by filing Form 8379 (PDF), Injured Spouse Allocation. The IRS can process your Form 8379 before an offset occurs. If you file Form 8379 with your original return, it may take 11 weeks to process an electronically-filed return or 14 weeks if you filed a paper return. If you file the Form 8379 by itself after a joint return has been processed, then processing will take about 8 weeks.
When filing Form 8379 by itself, you must show both spouses’ social security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your joint income tax return. You, the injured spouse, must sign the form. Follow the instructions on Form 8379 carefully and be sure to attach the required Forms W-2 and 1099 showing federal income tax withholding to avoid delays. Do not attach the previously filed joint tax return to the Form 8379 when filing it by itself. Send Form 8379 to the Service Center where you filed your original return and allow at least 8 weeks for the IRS to process your request. The IRS will compute the injured spouse’s share of the joint refund. If you lived in a community property state during the tax year, the IRS will divide the joint refund based upon state community property law. Not all debts are subject to a tax refund offset. So to determine whether an offset will occur on a debt owed you should check with a tax professional.
Be careful not to count on getting your refund by a certain date to make major purchases or pay other financial obligations. Many different factors can affect the timing of your refund after the IRS receives it for processing. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, it’s possible your tax return may require additional review and take longer. Also, if you are anticipating a refund, take into consideration the time it takes for your financial institution to post the refund to your account, or for mail delivery.
You should choose to have a direct deposit of your refund. Eight in 10 taxpayers get their refunds faster by using e-file and direct deposit. The IRS claims it is the safest, fastest way to receive your refund and is also easy to use. Just select it as your refund method through your tax software and type in the account number and routing number. Or, tell your tax preparer you want direct deposit. You can even use direct deposit if you are one of the few people still filing by paper. Be sure to double check your entry to avoid errors.
Your refund should only be deposited directly into accounts that are in your own name; your spouse’s name or both if it’s a joint account. No more than three electronic refunds can be deposited into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card. Taxpayers who exceed the limit will receive an IRS notice and a paper refund. Whether you file electronically or on paper, direct deposit gives you access to your refund faster than a paper check.