Here's when you can expect your federal tax refund to hit your bank account

  • Tax returns are due on April 15 this year.
  • The fastest and safest way to get your refund is e-filing and opting for direct deposit.
  • Using this method, most filers get their refund within 21 days of submitting their tax return.
  • See Personal Finance Insider’s picks for the best tax software »

Most people dread doing their taxes, but many hope for a refund. 

You can start filing your taxes as soon as you have all your income documents. The IRS will begin processing returns on February 12. Despite the later-than-usual start date, the agency said it still plans to pay out 90% of refunds within 21 days of receiving an electronic tax return.

The earliest that filers who claim the earned income tax credit (EITC) or additional child tax credit (ACTC) can get their refunds is early March, the IRS said.

Where’s my tax refund?

Filing electronically, through tax software or with the help of a tax professional, and requesting direct deposit is the quickest and safest way to get your federal tax refund. 

You can check the status of your refund using the IRS’s refund-tracking service within 24 hours of filing a tax return online or within four weeks of mailing a paper return. If you’re claiming the EITC or ACTC, the tool will be available beginning February 22.

The IRS updates its system daily, usually overnight.

To check your refund status, you’ll need three things:

  • Your Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number
  • Your filing status
  • The exact refund amount

Keep in mind: If you didn’t get a stimulus check, or got less than you should have, you should report it on your tax return. Any money the IRS owes you will be applied to your tax bill and lower it. If your tax bill drops to $0, the leftover cash will be added to your refund. Learn more about the recovery rebate credit »

When will I get my tax refund?

After the IRS processes your tax return — which can take up to three weeks from your e-file submission — it will deposit your refund in up to three separate bank accounts, as long as they’re held in your name as an individual account or you and your spouse’s name as a joint account.

If you file by the traditional paper-and-pencil method and request your refund as a check, it will generally arrive via snail mail within six weeks of filing. The pandemic is causing delays though, and the IRS is encouraging filers to avoid submitting paper returns.

Filers claiming the refundable tax credits will start seeing refunds in early March.

How can I get my tax refund early?

You may be able to get your refund early with a refund advance loan. H&R Block, TurboTax, and Jackson Hewitt offer refund advance loans with zero interest and fees.

The loans are offered in various sizes between $250 and $4,000; the amount you can get is determined in part on your credit history, tax payment history, and how much you expect to get back as a refund. You have to file your taxes before applying for the loan, but you can get approved and receive the money on a debit card within hours.

Why am I getting a tax refund?

If you’re getting a tax refund, it means you overpaid in taxes throughout the year. When you start a new job, you fill out a W-4 to let your employer know how much to withhold from each paycheck to cover your tax liability. If too little is withheld, you’ll owe taxes by the tax deadline. If too much is withheld, the overpayment is refunded to you.

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