When You Can File Your 2013 Return
I read your column that said the IRS was delaying the start of the tax-filing season because of the government shutdown in October. I’d like to get my refund as soon as possible. When can I file my return?
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The IRS pushed back the start of the tax-filing season by ten days because many IRS workers who update and test the computer systems were furloughed during the government shutdown. The IRS will start processing tax returns on January 31, and the fastest way to get your refund is to file electronically and have the money deposited directly into your bank account.
Depending on the day you file, you could receive your refund from seven to 14 days after filing, says Frank St. Onge, an enrolled agent and certified financial planner in Brighton, Mich. (Enrolled agents are licensed to represent taxpayers before the IRS.) If you’d like a paper check instead, you’ll usually get your money within about a month. The IRS says it expects to issue nine out of ten refunds in fewer than 21 days this year.
You’ll get your money later if you file a paper return. Even if you mail the return earlier, it still won’t be processed until January 31 or later. And it will take six to eight weeks to get a refund. St. Onge recommends filing electronically not only to get your money faster but also because you’ll input the information yourself. When you file a paper return, the IRS inputs the information into its computer system, which can lead to more errors.
You may have to wait a few days after January 31 for tax documents to arrive, especially if you have taxable investments or freelance income. Employers’ W-2 forms are usually available by then, but companies have until January 31 to send out 1099s reporting freelance income. Brokerage firms and mutual fund companies generally have until January 31 to send out their 1099s, too. Also look for Form 1098 from your mortgage lender reporting the mortgage interest and real estate taxes you paid in 2013, plus other paperwork with numbers you’ll need to report income, deductions and credits.
Keep in mind that the shutdown didn’t affect the tax-filing deadline. You still must file your return (or file for an extension) by April 15, 2014. Even if you file an extension, any money you owe is still due by April 15.
You can check on the status of your refund starting 24 hours after you e-file your return (or four weeks after you mail a paper return) by using the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? tool.
And you can avoid the wait for a refund next year and get more money in each paycheck if you increase the number of withholding allowances you claim now. See our Easy-to-Use Tax Withholding Calculator to estimate how many additional allowances you can take. Then file a new W-4 form with your employer, and you’ll see more money in your next paycheck. See How to Prevent a Big Tax Bill for details.
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