Money

Here's when the IRS says you can expect to get your tax refund

Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory."
CBS | Getty Images
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory."

If you are among the Americans who have already filed taxes this season, you can expect to get your refund about three weeks from the date you submitted your return, according to a recent report issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

A lot of people are concerned that, thanks to the recent government shutdown, which was the third-longest in U.S. history, as well as the ripple effects from tax reform, refunds could be delayed.

But that's not necessarily true.

In their report, the IRS says that despite the shutdown, officials have worked to "promptly resume normal operations," and that they were "able to open this year's tax-filing season one day earlier than the 2018 tax-filing season." According to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, the agency "will be doing everything it can" to have a smooth filing season.

"I am extremely proud of the entire IRS workforce. The dedicated IRS employees have worked tirelessly to implement the biggest tax law changes in 30 years and launch tax season for the nation," he said. "Although we face various near- and longer-term challenges, our employees are committed to doing everything we can to help taxpayers and get refunds out quickly."

It is true that returns aren't being processed at quite the same rate as last year. During this time in 2018, 51 million refunds were received by the IRS and 49 million were processed. That's a difference of about 1.7 million. This year, by comparison, 49 million refunds were received and 47 million have been processed, for a difference of 2.2 million.

Nonetheless, the IRS said, more than nine of 10 refunds are issued in less than 21 days.

In some cases, though, it could take a bit longer. By law, the IRS could not issue refunds "before Feb. 15 for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit." And "this applies to the entire refund, even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC," the agency said.

So if you filed in January and claimed one of these credits, the earliest you could have seen a refund was February 27, assuming you chose direct deposit and there were no additional issues with your return.

Other returns could "require additional review and a refund could take longer," the agency says. It's "important to take into consideration the time it takes for a financial institution to post the refund to an account or for it to be delivered by mail."

And, in a 2018 report, the IRS says that it and its tax industry partners "continue to strengthen security reviews to help protect against identity theft and refund fraud," which could potentially cause a delay.

You should still file soon, if you haven't already, the agency emphasized in a separate report last month: "There is no need to wait." In fact, experts say the No. 1 move you can make is to file as soon as possible.

Most filers who qualify for a refund will get it quickly, especially if they file online and opt for direct deposit: E-filing is the "fastest and safest way" to get your money, the IRS says.

If you're curious about the status of your refund, check online first, as a call to the IRS likely won't result in any new information. "Demand on phones during early weeks of tax season is traditionally heavy," the agency says. Instead, "taxpayers are encouraged to use IRS.gov to find answers."

The website "provides many self-service tools for individuals, businesses and tax professionals. For example, "taxpayers can view their tax account, get answers to common questions such as eligibility for a tax benefit or find free tax preparation help."

The deadline for filing (and for filing for an extension) is April 15. Again, experts suggest filing early: Because of the changes in the tax law, some taxpayers could see lower refunds and about 30 million could actually owe money to the IRS.

While there is no penalty for filing late if you're owed a refund, if you don't file within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

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