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The short version

  • Electronic filing and choosing direct deposit is the fastest way to get your income tax refund.
  • You can check your IRS refund status using the IRS website or app and/or tools provided by tax software programs to find out how much longer your return might take to process.
  • Things like the Earned Income Tax Credit and additional Child Tax Credit can delay your tax refund.

When someone owes you money, you want to know when they’re going to pay you back. Maybe you give them a little more time if you like them a lot, but you still want to know.

When the government owes you money, especially when the government owes you money because you’ve overpaid your taxes, that money can’t come fast enough.

After you've filed your 2022 tax return, you'll want to know exactly when you should expect the cash you're entitled to. Well, unfortunately, you can't know exactly, but you can predict fairly well using the IRS refund schedule for 2023. Here, we'll share details about when refunds will be sent as well as what factors can impact their delivery. Let's get into it.

What is the IRS refund schedule (2023)?

The IRS refund schedule predicts when you might receive your tax refund depending on how you file and when.

The tax deadline in 2023 falls on April 18 instead of the typical April 15**.** This means all taxpayers have until April 18 to submit their tax returns, but the tax season officially began on January 23. The IRS accepts tax refunds from the starting date of the tax season and issues refunds throughout the year. The schedule for this is varied.

Here's a simple breakdown of the IRS tax refund schedule for 2023.

  • E-filed tax returns | direct deposit: Expect to receive your refund within three weeks of filing (usually 21 days)
  • E-filed tax returns | paper check: Expect to receive your refund within three to four weeks of filing
  • Paper filed tax returns | direct deposit: Expect to receive your refund within three weeks of filing
  • Paper filed tax returns | paper check: Expect to receive your refund within six to eight weeks of filing

When you e-file, which is always our preferred method, you should receive your tax refund within 21 days of submitting your return. This factors in about two weeks for processing and payment after your return has been received and approved.

Typically, the IRS needs between 24 and 48 hours to accept your return if you file electronically, another 48 hours to approve it, and up to 19 days to send your refund using your preferred payment method (usually less).

But if you instead choose to paper file, the IRS may take up to six weeks to process your tax return and send your payment.

Point is, how long it takes to receive your tax refund payments after submitting your return completely depends on how you file and how you opt to receive your refund.

Note that there may be some exceptions to this schedule if the IRS needs to take more time to review your return, if there are any issues processing your return, and/or if you qualify for certain tax credits.

For example, tax returns that include the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) take longer to process, so the IRS doesn't start issuing refunds for those any sooner than mid-February. Most people who filed in late January and chose direct deposit for their refund should have received it by February 28th.

How to contact the IRS

So what should you do if you know you filed correctly and your refund still isn't here?

Hold off on contacting the IRS about your tax refund until it has been at least four weeks since you filed your complete federal tax return. This is how long the IRS asks that you allow for processing and typical delays. If you do decide to reach out, call 1-800-829-4477 and be prepared to provide the Social Security number for the return you're calling about as well as your filing status and the total amount of your refund.

What are the fastest (and slowest) ways to get your refund?

Year after year, e-filing your return and choosing direct deposit for payout ends up being the quickest way to get your IRS tax refund. And this holds true in 2023.

The slowest way to get your money is to file your tax return on paper, even slower if you choose to have a paper check mailed to you instead of a direct deposit scheduled. Whereas direct deposits hit taxpayer bank accounts almost immediately after processing, choosing to receive your refund as a paper check can take longer due to delays with mail delivery.

If you haven't filed yet and you want to get your tax refund as quickly as possible, filing electronically and choosing direct deposit is the fastest, easiest, and safest way to go.

How to track your IRS tax refund online

There are a couple of different ways to track your IRS refund online. The first is to go directly through the IRS website and the second is to use the IRS2Go mobile app. These are both official tracking options offered by the IRS that are available to all tax filers. They will show your return status in one of three stages:

  1. Return Received
  2. Refund Approved
  3. Refund Sent

If you filed electronically, you can start tracking your tax refund in as little as 24 hours after submitting your return. If you paper filed, wait four weeks to check the status.

We always recommend checking back often to make sure your tax return has been received. If there are any issues processing your return, you should be able to see that it's stuck and can contact the IRS to figure out why. It could be something as simple as mistyping on of the numbers of your SSN.

Many tax software programs such as TurboTaxH&R Block, and TaxAct also include their own refund tracking features. These work in much the same way as the programs provided by the IRS.

More: Best tax software for investors 2023

What if you file a tax extension in 2023?

We get it. Tax season is a lot whether you've gone through it a hundred times or you're experiencing it for the first time.

When you feel like you just won't be able to get your return in by the tax deadline, you have the option to apply for an extension. In 2023, this extends the due date from April 18 to October 16. You need to request an extension using Form 4868 before the tax filing deadline to qualify. To file Form 4868, you need to provide an estimate of your tax liability.

Extensions give you more time to get your tax documents together but do not give you more time to pay what you owe. If you owe state or federal taxes, you will still be responsible for paying these by the tax filing deadline even if your return is not filed.

What if you don’t file (or pay) your taxes on time?

The IRS accepts late returns even without an official extension, but with a big (potential) caveat. If you file late and owe taxes, you'll pay interest and fees until you file and pay. If you file late and are owed a refund, there is no penalty. As of 2023, the IRS charges an interest rate of 7% for underpayments.

But if you're getting a refund and you don't file your taxes on time, you won't get paid on time. The tax refund schedule assumes that you've gotten your return in on time and filers who got their tax returns in by the deadline will be prioritized over those who didn't. If you file after the due date, you can expect your return to take up to six weeks to process.

If you miss the deadline, you can still file your electronic tax refund free using IRS Free File until October 15.

What if you need more time to pay?

This is another situation entirely. If you owe taxes and can't pay by the deadline, you can apply for a payment plan. The IRS accepts applications for payment plans from most filers. If your tax liability is less than $50,000 and you've filed all tax returns required of you, you may qualify for a long-term installment agreement with monthly payments. If your liability is less than $100,000, you may qualify for a short-term installment agreement of less than 180 days.

How to get your tax refund faster

If you're really counting on your tax refund for any reason, you may be able to expedite it. This option is typically reserved for those experiencing financial hardship who need the money for things like basic living expenses and necessities. You just can't use this to pay off other federal debts like student loans or child support.

Eligibility for expedited refunds is determined on a case-by-case basis. You'll have to contact the IRS directly to find out if you qualify. You can reach out about this either before or after filing.

The bottom line

The good old Internal Revenue Service issues tax refunds as fast as it possibly can, but getting antsy when you find out you qualify for a return is understandable. Filing electronically and choosing direct deposit for your refund is the way to go for speedier refunds this filing season.

Use this IRS refund schedule for 2023 to find out when you might be able to expect your refund. And of course, use the IRS's refund tracking tools and tax software programs to check the status of your individual income tax return for more accurate estimates.

About the Author

Lauren Graves

Lauren Graves

Freelance Contributor

Lauren Graves is a freelance contributor for Moneywise.

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