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With 2018 behind us, it’s time to start thinking about filing your tax return for the 2018 tax year. If you’re wondering when you’ll get your tax refund, here’s what you need to know about tax processing time lines and other aspects of making sure your refund isn't inadvertently delayed.
When the IRS Starts Accepting Tax Returns: Even if you have a fairly simple return and all of your documents ready, you can’t file your tax return the second a new year begins. The IRS normally announces the first day it will accept tax returns by mid-late November, but at the time of writing, a start date is still unannounced. While the recent passage of the GOP tax bill will not affect 2018 tax returns, other tax provisions are set to expire, so Congress has not approved a start date yet. Under normal circumstances, however, tax season officially commences in the third week of January (fourth if it’s a year when tax provisions are expiring, which approximates a late start around January 29th this year.)
Processing Time frames and Common Causes of Delays: For a vast majority of taxpayers, 90% to be precise, you’ll get your refund in 21 days or less from the time that the IRS finishes processing your return. If you electronically file and request direct deposit, this significantly speeds things up. Filing on paper and/or requesting a refund check adds a lot more time to the wait, about four weeks for processing a paper return and another 10 days to issue a refund check from the processing date.
While longer and more complex returns take more time to process, a common cause for delayed processing is if the information is missing from your tax return. Make sure that your name is spelled correctly and matches your other tax records, and that your Social Security number also matches. Changes to your household or marital status that you neglect to mention when filing this year’s tax return can also cause delays, such as if you’re using Single status instead of Head of Household if you’re unmarried but have a dependent child now. If you've been a victim of identity theft, whether you’re aware of this or not, you may experience significant delays in processing and receiving your refund.
Mandated Refund Hold for Additional Child Tax Credit and EITC Recipients: If you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or Additional Child Tax Credit, you can file your tax return after the IRS opens for return acceptance, but your refund will be held until February 15th to verify your information. If you are unsure whether you will qualify for EITC, the IRS’ EITC Assistant can provide further guidance. The Additional Child Tax Credit is for taxpayers with three or more dependent children, or if your income and deductions result in a refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit.