How Long Will It Take To Get A Federal Tax Refund?

Congratulations! You finished filing your federal tax return, and you’re expecting to get a refund. But when? The answer is that it depends. 

How you file your taxes, how you decide to receive your refund, and whether you’re eligible for certain tax benefits can all make a difference in how long it takes to get your refund.  

Below are some guidelines that can help you figure out when you can expect the fed to issue your tax refund.

Review time

Although the IRS says it issues most refunds within 21 days, how long it actually takes for the money to get to you once it's released depends on this question: direct deposit or check?

If you request direct deposit: It may take around 21 calendar days for the IRS to process your refund. It can take several more days for the bank to process the payment and post it to your account.

If you request a check: It may take several weeks to be delivered by mail; this is in addition to the 21 days the IRS takes to process most returns.

Filing online vs filing by mail

Regardless of how you file, the amount of time it takes to have your federal return reviewed is the same. 

The difference is when your return gets to the IRS: E-filing gets your return into the IRS’s queue a bit more quickly than regular mail.

If you mail in your IRS forms and schedules, build in an extra four weeks for the IRS to receive it.

If you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your tax return  

If you claim either of these two tax benefits on your federal tax return, your refund may take a little longer. By law, the IRS can’t issue refunds for EITC and ACTC before mid-February. 

If you choose direct deposit and there aren’t issues with your tax return, the earliest that refunds involving the EITC or ACTC will be delivered is Feb, 27, 2019, according to the IRS.

If you make an error on your return

The IRS will generally contact you by mail if additional information is needed to process your return. 

Also, refunds can take longer to process if required information is missing, if there’s an error or if you are a victim of identity theft.  

Want to check on your refund?

You can follow your federal tax return’s progress using the IRS’s, “Where’s My Refund” web tool and the IRS2GO app.  If you e-filed, you can start following your return 24 hours after you submit your return. If you went old school and filed by paper, the app should start being useful about 4 weeks after you mailed your papers in.  

To use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, you’ll need:

Your social security number

Your filing status

The exact amount you expect to receive in your refund

How to get your refund faster

Getting a refund is the best part of doing taxes, and if you’re like most people, you want your money as soon as possible. 

When it comes to getting a return from the Federal Government, you can speed up the process by filing electronically and asking for funds to be deposited directly into your bank account. If you have any questions about your refund, use  IRS’ “Where’s My Refund” tool, its app, or, if you’re calling about a return for a person (as opposed to a business) you can call them at 800-829-1040.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.