Tax Refund

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor

 

Still waiting for your Federal tax refund? Remember that millions of people file their tax returns on April 15. With so many tax forms to process, the IRS often has many tax refunds queued up and waiting to be sent out to taxpayers. So, are you still wondering “where's my refund?”

It is true that millions of people are waiting to receive their tax refund from the IRS. It's an anxious time for many taxpayers, who could use the money from their tax refund to pay bills and other important obligations. How can you find out when your tax refund will arrive?

READ: 4 Great Tax Tips for This Year's Return

Tax Refund Status

You can check your tax refund status from your computer using the IRS website. In order to do this, use the “Where’s My Refund?” online tool provided by the IRS — an icon for this tool can be found on the IRS.gov homepage, on the right side under “Filing and Payment.” 

In order to retrieve information regarding the status of your tax refund, you must provide the following:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN) or your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Your filing status (i.e., single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child)
  • The exact whole dollar amount of your tax refund

If you are unable to check the status of your tax refund online and you believe there may have been a problem with your refund or your income tax return, then you can call the IRS Refund Hotline (800-829-1954). Automated information is available 24 hours a day.

A number of factors could contribute to delays in your tax refund — such as mistakes on your tax return, incorrect or changed mailing addresses, incorrect or changed names, problems with bank accounts, or delays simply due to volume.

According to the IRS, the agency “issued more than 9 out of 10 refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days last year,” and the same results are expected for 2014. If you file a paper tax return by mail, you can probably expect to receive your tax refund within 6 to 8 weeks after the IRS receives your return. If you file your tax return electronically (also known as “e-file”), you can probably expect to get your tax refund within 3 weeks after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your return.

READ: When Will My Federal Tax Refund Arrive?

In some cases your tax refund may be delayed beyond the normal waiting period (three weeks for electronic filers, eight weeks for paper files). The high volume of tax forms that the IRS is required to process each year slows down the processing of tax refunds. However, there are some alternative sources of cash you can consider:

Refund Anticipation Loans

A tax refund anticipation loan (or “tax refund advance”) basically provides people with an instant tax refund. If you sign up for a refund anticipation loan at the time of filing your tax return, your tax refund will be handed to you immediately. How does it work? The tax preparation service is essentially loaning you money that’s equal to the amount of your expected tax refund. Then, weeks later, when the IRS sends out your actual tax refund, it will go directly to the tax preparation service that loaned you the money. Once your loan with them is fully repaid, nothing more is required of you. The process is usually simple, easy, and fast.

Payday Loans

A payday loan (also known as a “check loan” or “payroll advance loan”) is another alternative to waiting for your tax refund. A payday loan is similar to a refund anticipation loan in that you receive the money immediately, and then at a later date, your paycheck is used to repay the company that gave you the payday loan.

These types of services are designed to benefit anyone who needs immediate cash and cannot wait to receive their next paycheck or tax refund. With both types of loans (refund anticipation loans and payday loans), there are fees and interest charged that will apply. Therefore, you are encouraged to shop around for the best deal before making a decision and signing anything.

Beware of Tax Refund Scams

Remember, the IRS never sends you emails regarding your tax refund. Scammers often pose as the IRS and send emails to taxpayers, asking for information before their tax refund can be processed. The emails may appear legitimate and even say "From: IRS" or use their logo. But even if an email looks legitimate, do not respond to it! Scam emails are a common tactic used by criminals who are trying to do nothing more than steal your money and/or identity. So remember that the IRS does not communicate with taxpayers via email. If they have a question or need to get in touch with you, they will do so by sending you a notice via postal mail.

READ: When Will I Get My State Tax Refund?