Receiving Your Refund
If you come out in the black, you’ll receive a refund issued by the IRS that should be sent within three weeks of the date you filed.
If your return is rejected and requires changes, or you have to amend your W2 or 1099, this could take longer, up to twelve weeks.
That largely depends on how you filed, and if the IRS or any other second-party software has the requisite information to contact you sooner.
You can request your return be paid out in one lump, or divided across accounts. If you prefer to receive a paper check rather than a direct deposit, into your savings or checking account expect a delay in mailing.
If it’s been more than eight weeks, or you’re just antsy to buy that new laptop, you can use the IRS site’s “Where’s My Refund” tool to find out what’s the hold-up. Think of it like a tracking number for refunds. This will tell you if further action is required on your part, or if it’s in process and you need to sit tight. Alternately, you can call their hotline at 1-800-829-1954.
Expect long wait times if you’re calling between May and July, for obvious reasons. Be sure to have your exact refund amount handy.
There are several reasons your refund hasn’t shown up yet.
I should stress again that filing electronically will save you from further delay. After all, if you’ve ever had to go through mail correspondence with a municipal office, you know what I’m talking about. In any case, here are the most commonly reported reasons:
1. You reported your own personal information incorrectly.
You may have goofed up and forgot to mark appropriate exemption boxes, or you printed your kid’s social security number incorrectly, or you spelled your wife’s middle name wrong, forgot to sign, or sent it to the wrong address. Or… you just have very, very bad handwriting. Filing electronically can spare you this embarrassment.
2. You figured your tax amount incorrectly.
Perhaps you need to brush up on your basic arithmetic. It’s also possible you misread the tax table, forgot to attach right forms, or the W-2s /1099s from all your employers. In effect, something just doesn’t add up and the IRS will let you know about it. Using TurboTax or another free trial software available online can be effective in identifying these issues before you submit your return.
Wait, this isn’t right…
If you come out even, or owing taxes, but you’re still finding a crisp envelope and check in your mailbox, resist your better instincts: DO NOT CASH THAT CHECK!
Wait until the IRS follows up with a letter explaining why the early birthday present. Or, just give them a call. They’d prefer you to wait two weeks for that notice, but I know I wouldn’t. Just remember: better not spend that money now to find out they need it back later. On the other hand, if you didn’t get the refund you expected, call to find out why and see if you can determine what happened to the difference.