How Does the IRS Process Tax Returns?

by Faith O ; Updated July 27, 2017

The IRS has major deadlines by which tax returns, both individual and business have to meet. For individuals, this date is April 15. For businesses and other organizations it is either April 15 of the 15th day of the fourth month following the start of the fiscal year (for those using fiscal years). Those who filed an extension have until Oct. 15 to get their returns in to the IRS. Once these returns are received, either as electronic files or as paper copies, the IRS begins processing immediately. Returns are usually handled as they come in on a first-come first-served basis.

After Filing your Return

If you e-file you will generally receive an acknowledgment that the IRS has received your return within 48 hours, either by email or within the tax-filing program you used. Seventy-two hours after the IRS has acknowledged your return you can track it on the IRS' "Where's my refund?" page. Information about the progress of your return will be available on the site. Bear in mind that you can only track returns for the current tax-filing year. Information on returns of previous years and amended returns filed with IRS form 1040X cannot be tracked on the site.

Processing Returns

The IRS does not guarantee when you will receive your refund check or when your refund will be deposited into your bank account. However, you can generally receive an estimated time period when you expect to get your refund from the site mentioned above. If you e-filed, you can also check within your tax-filing program, which should have a table of estimated refund receipt times based on when you filed. See a link in Resources for the current e-file refund cycle.

About the Author

Faith O has covered politics and general news in Washington DC, Chicago and Maryland. Her writing has appeared in the Associated Press, Prince George's Sentinel, Northwest Indiana Times, Chicago Defender and Daily Southtown, among others. She has a Masters of Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School and a Bachelor's degree from Hampshire College in Amherst.