Podcast: Where’s My Refund

Tax Reform

Written by Jeff Dvorachek

February 27, 2019

Listen in about certain factors that may affect how long it will take to receive your tax refund:



As we get into the middle of tax season, returns are being filed and refunds are issued. Did you know that there are factors that can affect the timing of your refund?

– Such as?

Well it depends on how you file your return. So, if you e-file your return and you ask for direct deposit, 90 percent of those returns should be in your bank account within 21 days. But we’re seeing many within 7 to 10 days. So that, by far, is the fastest way to file your return and I think that’s what the majority of people are using now.

But there are some people who are e-filing and then asking for a paper check. That can delay your refund. So with that, you would be looking at the tail-end of the 21 days. So rather than 7-10 days, you may be looking at 21 or maybe even a little more than 21 days.

If you’re somebody who still likes to hand-file your return and you send that in via snail mail, you’re looking at 6 to 8 weeks before you’ll get your refund.

– Are people still filing out tax returns manually?

There are some, we get clients every year where we ask for the prior year return and it’s a hand-written return.

– Wow! I thought that was the thing of the past.
So, what can delay a refund?

It doesn’t happen as much anymore with the e-filing, but paper returns especially have errors. For example, math errors, ID numbers where your social security number is mismatched, and also matching errors. The IRS is doing more matching, like taking your W-2 information and comparing it to returns that are filed. States are also matching a lot of different things.

There’s also identity theft or identity fraud. So, if that happens, the IRS will contact you, but that will of course slow your refund down, because the IRS really wants to make sure they’re giving this refund to the right person. They’ve been kind of big on that before.

If you have the earned income credit, which a lot of people do, at least for the 2017 year, those refunds weren’t even issued until the end of February. I would assume the same thing is going to happen this year is they probably won’t be issued until the end of February.

Other abnormalities, things that just don’t look right from returns that you’ve filed in the past. Maybe you have four dependents now or maybe you used to have no dependents. There’s just other things like that.

There’s the Government shutdown. There’s been talk in the past about the government shutdown and delaying refunds. I think they’ve said that the refunds would not be delayed, but there could be reasons with a paper-filed return that the refunds could be delayed because it’s slower to process through the IRS system.

The other interesting thing is States. There was a couple years ago where the state of Illinois actually did not send out refunds in a timely manner because they couldn’t afford it.

– Hey I think it’s important to note too when the IRS contacts you, they’re not going to call you – they don’t have your phone number. It’s most likely a scam if someone is saying they’re the IRS and calling you. They have very traditional ways of communicating.

That’s exactly right. So they generally do not do phone calls or email. They mostly do mail at this point. I think that may change in the future, but right now I would be highly critical if they sent it to you in anything other than mail.

– Can I check on the status of my refund?

Sure. What you can do is you can call the IRS directly. I probably wouldn’t suggest that because you’re going to be waiting on hold for a long time. Even to just get your refund status.

The other thing you can do is go right to the IRS website. They have a great tool that’s called “Where’s My Refund.” You can even google “Where’s My Refund” and “IRS” and it’ll bring you right to that site. It gets updated once a day and you can see the status of your refund about 24 hours after your return is filed electronically or 4 weeks after it’s done by paper.

How and when you file your return can really affect when your refund will be issued.

– And you can help file those tax returns?

You bet, we are always taking on new clients. E-filing is really a neat thing and you can get your returns so much faster.

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Jeff Dvorachek
I joined Hawkins Ash CPAs in 1998. I am the partner-in-charge of the Manitowoc, WI, office and tax director for the firm. I have thorough experience providing tax services to individuals, commercial businesses, nonprofit entities and estates and trusts. I also provide compilation and review services. I lead the Tax Committee and am a member of the Information Technology Advisory Committee.

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