After you e-file your tax returns, you anticipate the arrival of your refund so that you can pay bills or have some spending money. The time that it takes for a refund to arrive depends on such factors including whether you use direct deposit or elect to receive a check by mail. If any underlying circumstances arise after you file your return, this could substantially delay the refund until resolved.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
When you e-file your tax return, you can get your refund in as little as two weeks if you opt for direct deposit. If you choose to have your refund issued as a paper check, the time increases to three to four weeks.
If you choose direct deposit when you e-file your tax return, you can expect a federal return to take two weeks, if you file before the April deadline. Some state returns may take as long as two weeks, but some can come as early as a week after submitting the return. Seventy-two hours after your return is accepted by the IRS, you can use the "Where's My Refund?" website to check the status of your return.
If you choose to receive a check in the mail, plan for it to take longer to get a refund. You can receive a check in three to four weeks after the date that you mail your federal tax return. You can use "Where's My Refund?" after one week to start tracking the progress of the federal return. A check from your state return can take two to four weeks to arrive.
Causes for Delay
If you are filing an injured spouse Form 8379, your refund can be delayed. It could take up to four weeks before you receive a refund through direct deposit and six weeks if waiting for a check through the mail. If any agency places a claim on your refund, this will slow its progress as well. Child support agencies, state governments and the IRS can place a claim against your money if you owe back child support, taxes, fines or penalties. Another cause for delay is the need to verify your identity. If the IRS deems this necessary, they will send you Letter 4883C and you'll need to call the verification number on the letter. Be ready to provide information from your prior year's tax return, your current tax return and any supporting income documents.
Errors or Amended Returns
Errors on your tax returns or amending your return as soon as you e-file could slow the refund process slightly. Correct information and calculations are important when doing taxes. If you must amend a return and owe money after receiving a refund, you should send that money back to the government right away.
Tips and Warnings
If you enter the wrong bank account number for direct deposit, it can take as long as six to seven weeks to get a check in the mail. If you use "Where's My Refund?" after the given amount of time – and don't see a status update – contact the IRS to start tracking your tax return. Double check all the information on your e-file tax return before final submission to avoid delays caused by errors.