March 2, 2024
Get the ultimate guide to when you can expect your tax return with helpful tips for early filers, how to avoid mistakes, delayed returns, and how to contact the IRS for help. Discover how to check for your refund, receive options, and reasons why timing can vary.


There are few things more nerve-wracking than waiting on your tax return. The good news is that there are resources and tools available to help you get a better understanding of when to expect your refund. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to stay on top of your tax return timeline and ensure you get your return as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The Ultimate Guide to When You Can Expect Your Tax Return: Everything You Need to Know

For many people, the most significant question when it comes to tax returns is simply: When can I expect it? The answer is a bit more complicated than you might think, but there are a few factors to consider. Generally, the IRS processes returns on a first-come, first-served basis. That said, there are a few different processing times based on how you filed your return. For example:

  • If you filed electronically, you can generally expect your refund to be processed within 21 days.
  • If you filed a paper return, it will take longer—usually around 6-8 weeks.
  • If you filed for an extension, your timeline will be different. Extensions usually give you an extra six months to file, but your return won’t be processed until you file.

It’s important to note that these are just general guidelines, and your timeline may be a little different depending on a few factors.

Factors that Can Affect the Timeline of Tax Returns

There are a few things that can affect how long it takes to get your tax refund. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • The volume of returns: If the IRS is particularly busy, it can take longer to process returns.
  • Errors on your return: If your return contains errors or omissions, it can take longer to process.
  • Refund claims: If your tax refund is large, it may be subject to additional scrutiny before it’s processed.

How to Check the Status of Your Tax Return

Fortunately, there are tools available to help you keep tabs on your tax return status. The IRS offers a Where’s My Refund portal that allows you to check on the status of your refund at any time by entering some basic information.

Is Your Tax Return Delayed? Here’s What You Need to Do

So what happens if your tax return is delayed? Unfortunately, there are a few things that can hold up your return. Here are a few reasons why your return might be delayed:

  • Errors on your return: As mentioned above, errors or omissions can cause your return to be delayed.
  • Refund claims: Large refund claims may take longer to process if they are subject to additional scrutiny.
  • Identity theft: If someone else has filed a return using your social security number, it can take time to sort out the issue.
  • Missing information: If the IRS needs additional information from you to process your return, it can be delayed.

Steps to Take When Tax Returns are Delayed

If you’re concerned that your tax return is delayed, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Check the status of your return: Use the Where’s My Refund portal to check on the status of your refund.
  • Contact the IRS: If you’re concerned that your return is delayed, don’t hesitate to reach out to the IRS. They may be able to provide you with additional information or help get things moving.
  • Consider filing a trace: In some cases, you may need to file a trace to track your refund and ensure that it’s being processed correctly. Talk to an IRS representative for guidance on this process.

How to Contact the IRS for Assistance

If you need to contact the IRS for assistance, there are a few different options available:

  • Online: The IRS website offers a wealth of resources for tax filers. Check out their FAQ section or use their Contact Your Local IRS Office tool to find the right contact for your issue.
  • Phone: You can call the IRS hotline at 1-800-829-1040 for assistance.
  • In Person: If you prefer to meet with someone in person, you can always visit a local IRS office. Check the IRS website for office locations and hours of operation.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting… Your Tax Refund

Once your tax return is processed, you’ll be eagerly awaiting your refund. Here’s what you need to know about how to receive your refund:

Options for How to Receive Refunds

There are a few different options available for receiving your tax refund, including:

  • Direct deposit: Direct deposit is the fastest and most convenient way to receive your refund. You should receive your refund within a few days of it being processed.
  • Check in the mail: If you prefer to receive a paper check, you should expect to receive it within a few weeks of your refund being processed.
  • Prepaid debit card: Some tax filing services offer prepaid debit cards that can be loaded with your refund. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before choosing this option.

How to Track the Status of Your Tax Refund

Just like with your tax return status, you can use the Where’s My Refund portal to track the status of your refund. You’ll need some basic information, like your social security number and the amount of your expected refund, to get started.

How Early Filers Can Get Their Tax Refunds Quicker

One way to ensure that you get your refund as quickly as possible is to file early in the tax season. Here are a few benefits to filing early:

  • Less backlog: The IRS tends to get busier as the tax season goes on, so filing early can help you avoid long delays due to high volume.
  • Faster refunds: Since the IRS processes returns on a first-come, first-served basis, filing early can help ensure that your refund is processed more quickly.
  • Clearer calendar: Filing early means you can get your refund and move on with your year without worrying about taxes anymore!

Tips for Assisting the Filing Process

If you’re looking to get your tax refund as quickly as possible, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Gather all of your necessary documents and receipts beforehand so you don’t miss anything.
  • Avoid errors and omissions on your return by double-checking your work.
  • Consider using tax preparation software or a tax professional to help ensure accuracy.

How to Get Your Refund Quickly by Choosing the Right Options

If you’re opting for direct deposit, make sure you carefully enter your bank account information to avoid errors that could delay your refund. If you’re using a prepaid debit card, read the terms and conditions carefully to ensure you understand any fees or limitations that may apply.

The Top Mistakes That Can Delay Your Tax Refund and How to Avoid Them

Finally, there are a few common mistakes that can cause delays when it comes to getting your tax refund. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Incorrect personal details: Make sure your social security number, name, and address all match what’s on file with the IRS. These errors can cause significant delays in processing your return.
  • Math errors: Even small math errors can cause issues with your return and delay your refund.
  • Incorrect filing status: Be sure to choose the correct filing status based on your situation—for example, single, married filing jointly, etc.

Tips for Avoiding and Correcting These Mistakes

The best way to avoid mistakes on your return is to take your time and double-check your work. If you do make a mistake, don’t panic! Most errors can be corrected by filing an amended return. This process is a bit more involved, but it’s worth it to ensure that you get your refund as quickly as possible.


Getting your tax return can be a stressful experience—but it doesn’t have to be! By using these resources and taking a bit of care, you can ensure that you get your refund as quickly and efficiently as possible. Remember to file early, use the Where’s My Refund portal to check on your refund and return status, and reach out to the IRS if you have any issues or concerns. With a little bit of effort, you can get your tax return with minimal fuss.

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