Tax Tip: Where's my refund? - WRBL

Tax Tip: Where's my refund?

Updated: April 18, 2012 09:45 AM EDT
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A tax tip from IRS.gov

2012 Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions:

How quickly will taxpayers get refunds?

Following technology improvements, the IRS will issue refunds to more taxpayers in as few as 10 days this year. But taxpayers should keep in mind that many variables can affect the speed of a tax refund.

The IRS issues more than 90 percent of refunds within 21 days

Why can't the IRS tell me the exact date I will get my refund?

The IRS reminds taxpayers that refund time frames provided by the "Where's My Refund?" IRS2Go smartphone application (app) and tax providers are projected time frames and are subject to revision. Many different factors can affect the timing of the refund after the IRS receives the return for processing.

Also, keep in mind that the date "Where's My Refund" provides is the estimated date the IRS will issue the refund, not the date the taxpayer will get the refund. It may take up to five additional days for the financial institution to post the refund to your account, or for mail delivery.

Why did my refund date on "Where's My Refund"change?

Refund dates change in "Where's My Refund" as a tax return moves through IRS processing. A date change is not a sign of a problem for a person's tax return. No action is needed by the taxpayer, unless "Where's My Refund" specifically indicates that an action is needed.

The estimated refund date initially provided via "Where's My Refund" is just that, an estimate based on a best-case scenario in which the tax return was filed accurately and there are no corrections or reviews required. However, there are many factors that could affect the processing of a taxpayer's return that may also change the estimated date the refund will be issued. These could include:

- The IRS balances customer service and tax compliance by reviewing tax returns to prevent fraudulent and erroneous refunds. These critical reviews could add time to refund processing, even for some legitimate returns.

- The IRS may need time to fix a simple error, like a math error.

- Refund timeframes can also be affected by such factors as bankruptcy, an open audit or a balance due on a related account such as a different tax year.

If a tax return is affected by one of these factors or by an IRS processing system delay, "Where's My Refund" will generally provide updated information as that return is processed and/or an updated estimate as the actual refund date becomes more clear.

The date "Where's My Refund" provided is different than the date my tax preparer or tax software provided. What should I do?

The IRS reminds taxpayers that refund time frames provided by "Where's My Refund" and tax providers are projected time frames and are subject to change. Many different factors can affect the timing of the refund after the IRS receives the return for processing.

The IRS issues the vast majority of refunds in 21 days or less so even though the issue date provided to you may have changed, it's very likely that your refund is on its way.

There is no need to call unless you get a specific message indicating that you should. If the IRS needs more information to process your return, they will contact you by mail. The telephone assistors do not process refunds and will not be able to provide additional information.

Will calling the IRS give me additional information or speed my refund?

No, calling the IRS won't do anything to speed your refund. The IRS processes more than 140 million tax returns each year, and our telephone assistors are not the people who actually process tax returns.

The best option for taxpayers is to check "Where's My Refund" or IRS2Go and remember the vast majority of tax refunds will be issued within 21 days.

More information about the refund process is available in our YouTube video, When Will I Get My Refund?, and an IRS fact sheet.

Is the estimated date provided by my tax preparer, tax software or "Where's My Refund" a guarantee of when I will get my refund?

Unfortunately, the IRS cannot guarantee a taxpayer will get their refund on a certain date. While estimates are provided as the return is processed, the IRS emphasizes these are "best-case scenarios" where tax returns are filed accurately and no corrections or review are required.

What might cause a taxpayer's return to take longer to process?

Common errors can delay processing and extend refund timelines. Ensure your refund arrives as expected by submitting an error-free return. Use the correct Social Security or taxpayer identification numbers, address, and bank and routing numbers if electing direct deposit.

To balance taxpayer service, quick refunds and tax compliance, the IRS must review refunds to prevent fraudulent and erroneous refunds. These critical reviews can add time to refund processing, even for some legitimate tax returns.

The IRS also periodically adjusts its technology systems during the filing season, which can also factor into short refund delays.

What is the best way to file for an accurate return and a fast refund?

Using e-file with direct deposit remains the fastest option for taxpayers.

E-file remains the best way to ensure an error-free return. However, certain taxpayers, like those claiming the adoption credit, must file paper tax returns so that they can submit required documentation. Paper returns take longer to process.

Ensure your refund arrives as expected by submitting an error free return. Use the correct Social Security or taxpayer identification numbers, address, and bank and routing numbers if electing direct deposit.

What's the best way for taxpayers to check on the status of their refund?

You don't need to call and wait on the telephone. The fastest and best way to check the status of your refund is through the "Where's My Refund" tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go smartphone app.

Generally, information about refund status is available about three days after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or four weeks after you mailed a paper return.

The IRS works hard to issue refunds as quickly as possible. But the IRS cautions taxpayers not to tie major financial decisions to the receipt of their tax refund by a specific date.

How does the IRS's Refund Cycle Chart used by tax professionals differ from general refund timelines?

The IRS Refund Cycle Chart is a tool provided to help tax professionals provide a best-case estimate when the IRS may issue a refund based on when the return is accepted by the IRS. The refund time frames provided by the Refund Cycle Chart are best-case estimates and subject to revision as many different factors can affect the timing of the refund after the IRS receives the return for processing.

The times listed on the Refund Cycle Chart are the best-case scenarios for refunds. These refund times routinely differ from those listed on Where's My Refund and the IRS2Go smartphone app.

It's important to note that the chart is only for electronically filed returns, but it does show timelines for both direct deposit and mailed checks. The dates on the Refund Cycle Chart are the best-case estimate date the IRS will issue the refund, not the date the taxpayer will receive it. Also, remember many factors can extend refund receipt timelines, including IRS reviews, banking practices and speed of mail delivery.

Remember that all of the web page addresses for the official IRS website, IRS.gov, begin with http://www.irs.gov. Don't be confused or misled by Internet sites that end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. The address of the official IRS governmental Web site is http://www.irs.gov/.

INFORMATIONAL DISCLAIMER The information contained on or provided through this site is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional financial or accounting advice. Always seek the advice of your accountant or other qualified personal finance advisor for answers to any related questions you may have. Use of this site and any information contained on or provided through this site is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
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