If you're one of the millions of Americans who check the mailbox every day for your income tax refund, be advised that the method you use to file and how you choose to receive your refund has a big effect on how quickly you get your money back. The IRS will even tell you when to expect your refund.
By far the fastest way to get your money back is to file early and electronically. Popular prompt-driven programs, such as TurboTax and TaxCut, transmit completed forms over the Internet and can be used for state returns as well. Opt for "ACH" or electronic funds transfer into your bank account, and you could see your refund in as little as two weeks, without having to wait for the mail. The IRS also has an electronic program, called e-file, that offers the same waiting period. The closer you get to April 15, however, the longer it takes.
Filing Paper Returns
Old-fashioned paper returns have a much longer turnaround time. The IRS website states a 6-week minimum waiting period to verify a return, print a check and mail it back. It takes a minimum of 3 weeks before the IRS can even acknowledge a paper return, whereas an electronic return takes 3 to 4 days. If you haven't received your refund by the 7th or 8th week, the IRS recommends calling the customer service line to order a trace on your return.
"Where's My Refund?"
The IRS offers an online portal called "Where's My Refund?" for taxpayers who are concerned about payment status. Simply provide your Social Security number, your filing status ("married filing jointly," for example) and your expected refund amount. Once the refund has been received and processed, an "on or about" date will be revealed. Those filing electronically can expect to have the payment date in under a week; those who file through the mail must wait a minimum of 3 weeks.
Amended or Corrected Returns
The exception to these rules is amended or corrected returns, which generally take more time to process. The IRS website states "it may take 8 to 12 weeks or longer" to process these returns. As such, don't expect a speedy refund, although the IRS recommends calling the customer service line to check on the status of the return.
- Form 1040 Tax Forms image by Viola Joyner from Fotolia.com