Millions of Americans Will Receive a Tax Refund Interest Check from the IRS

Payments will go to people who filed their tax return by July 15 and received a refund in the past three months or are still waiting for a refund.

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The IRS will send interest payments to about 13.9 million taxpayers this week. The average payment will be about $18. You can expect a payment if you filed a 2019 return before this year's July 15 deadline and either received a refund in the past three months or will receive a refund. Most interest payments will be sent separately from tax refund payments.

Normally, the IRS only adds interest to refunds issued more than 45 days after the return due date. The typical tax return due date is April 15. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year's filing deadline was pushed back to July 15. The change is considered a disaster-related postponement, which means the IRS is required by law to pay interest calculated from the original April 15 filing deadline for anyone who files their return by the postponed deadline. This refund interest requirement only applies to individual income tax filers – businesses are not eligible.

How Will the Payment Be Made?

For about 12 million people, the interest payment will be directly deposited into the same bank account that their tax refund was deposited. Everyone else will receive a paper check. A notation on the check saying "INT Amount" will identify it as a refund interest payment and indicate the interest amount.

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How the Interest Amount is Calculated

Interest is paid at rates set by law. The rate for the second quarter ending June 30 was 5%. The rate for the third quarter starting July 1 dropped to 3%. Interest is compounded daily.

Where the calculation period spans more than one quarter, a blended rate consisting of the number of days falling in each calendar quarter applies. No interest will be added to any refund issued before the original April 15 deadline.

Taxability of Interest Payments

If you receive one of the IRS interest payments, you must report the interest as taxable income on your 2020 federal income tax return that you'll file next year. In January 2021, the IRS will send a Form 1099-INT to anyone who receives interest totaling at least $10.

Rocky Mengle
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

Rocky is a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, he worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky has a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.