When You Can Expect to Receive Your Tax Refund

The quickest way to receive your tax refund is to file electronically and have the money directly deposited into your bank account.

Question: I just filed my income tax return. When will I get my refund?

Answer: The IRS usually issues refunds within 21 days after you e-file, or within six weeks if you mail your return. You’ll get your money the fastest if you e-filed and have the refund electronically deposited into your bank account. See this IRS direct deposit guide for instructions on having your refund deposited into one or more of your bank accounts. Direct deposit also prevents you from having to worry about a lost or stolen check.

Your refund may be delayed if you claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Under federal law, the IRS cannot issue refunds before mid February for people who claimed these credits. That’s designed to protect against ID theft by people who file a tax return in your name before you do.

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You can check on the status of your refund with the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? tool. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, your filing status and the exact amount of your refund. You can check on the status 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return or four weeks after filing a paper return. The tool shows the status in three stages: return received, refund approved and refund sent.

Fewer people than usual are receiving refunds this year because the new tax law reduced the income tax brackets starting in 2018 and the IRS adjusted the tax withholding tables to have employers set aside less money from employees’ paychecks. Your tax bracket may have dropped and your take-home pay may have risen in 2018, but you may end up having a smaller refund (or no refund) when you file your income tax return.

If you’d like to receive a larger refund in the future or, even better, if you’d like to get more money in your paychecks but not owe money at tax time, you can use the IRS’s 2019 Withholding Calculator to determine whether you should adjust the amount of taxes your employer withholds from your paychecks. (You can also use our tax withholding calculator.) You can adjust your withholding by filing IRS Form W-4 with your employer to get more money in each paycheck right away, or you can reduce your take-home pay and get a larger refund next spring. For more information, see The One Simple Move Keeping Americans from Getting Bigger Tax Refunds This Year.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.