While Americans often say they dread the April 15 income tax deadline, most regular workers who earn a wage, and have their taxes withheld, actually look forward to filing their income tax returns with the IRS, because they usually get some money back. Sometimes quite a bit. [Note: For 2018, the income tax filing deadline is April 17, because April 15 is a Sunday, and April 16 is a holiday for federal workers in Washington D.C. (Emancipation Day).]
But every year it seems like the income tax refund schedule is changed. In 2017, for example, returns with the earned income tax credit (EITC) or additional child tax credit (ACTC) were delayed by the IRS in order to deter fraud. For the 2018 income tax filing season, taxpayers with those tax credits can also expect the same delay.
The chart below offers a general guide for when taxpayers should receive their income tax refund, based on when they filed, when the IRS accepted their return, and whether they are receiving a direct deposit of the refund or a paper check. For a more specific determination of when you might receive your refund, ask your tax professional or visit the IRS "Where's My Refund?" website.
There are also apps for Apple, Android and other devices that help track refund status.
Note: The IRS will start processing most returns on January 22, but will not start processing returns with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until mid-February 2018.
2018 Income Tax Refund Schedule
| IRS Issues Direct
Deposit or Check
|Jan 12||Jan 21||Feb 2|
|Jan 19||Jan 28||Feb 9|
|Jan 26||Feb 4||Feb 16|
|Feb 2||Feb 11||Feb 23|
|Feb 9||Feb 18||Mar 2|
|Feb 16||Feb 25||Mar 9|
|Feb 23||Mar 4||Mar 16|
|Mar 2||Mar 11||Mar 23|
|Mar 9||Mar 18||Mar 30|
|Mar 16||Mar 25||Apr 6|
|Mar 23||Apr 1||Apr 13|
|Mar 30||Apr 8||Apr 20|
|Apr 6||Apr 15||Apr 27|
|Apr 13||Apr 22||May 4|
|Apr 20||Apr 29||May 11|
|Apr 27||May 6||May 18|
|May 4||May 13||May 25|
|May 11||May 20||Jun 1|
The IRS will begin processing tax returns on January 22, 2018, for income earned in 2017. In general, the IRS says that returns with refunds are processed and payments issued within 21 days. For paper filers, this can take much longer, however. The IRS and tax professionals strongly encourage electronic filing.
Taxpayers can use “Where’s My Refund?” to start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after IRS has received an e-filed return or four weeks after receipt of a mailed paper return. "Where’s My Refund?" has a tracker that displays progress through three stages: (1) Return Received, (2) Refund Approved and (3) Refund Sent.
The IRS2Go phone app is another fast and safe tool taxpayers can use to check the status of a refund. In addition, users can use the app to find free tax preparation help, make a payment, watch the IRS YouTube channel, get the latest IRS news, and subscribe to filing season updates and tax tips. The app is free for Android devices from the Google Play Store or from the Apple App Store for Apple devices.
Users of both the IRS2Go app and “Where’s my Refund” tools must have information from their current, pending tax return to access their refund information.
How quickly a taxpayer receives a refund also depends on when they file and whether they have requested a direct deposit of their refund, or a paper check. This is because during some time frames there is increased traffic, with more filers getting their forms in. The busiest time, and which can experience longer waits on refunds, is usually for those who file in the last week before the April 16 deadline. (The tax deadline in 2018 is April 16 because April 15 falls on a Sunday.)
The chart above provides a general estimate of when taxpayers can expect their refund, based on date filed and type of refund payment.