When To Expect Your 2023 Tax Refund
The IRS issues most tax refunds in 21 or fewer calendar days, but some tax returns take longer to process. Filing your return electronically and opting for direct deposit is the best way to get your tax return as quickly as possible.
- Written by Terry Turner
Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator
Terry Turner has more than 35 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).Read More
- Edited BySavannah Pittle
Senior Financial Editor
Savannah Pittle is a professional writer and content editor with over 16 years of professional experience across multiple industries. She has ghostwritten for entrepreneurs and industry leaders and been published in mediums such as The Huffington Post, Southern Living and Interior Appeal Magazine.Read More
- Reviewed ByBrandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA
Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA
Retirement and Social Security Expert
Brandon Renfro is a Retirement and Social Security Expert and financial planner. He focuses on helping clients create a secure financial future in retirement and co-owns Belonging Wealth Management. He is also a former finance professor and writes for several publications.Read More
- Published: March 18, 2023
- Updated: April 11, 2023
- 6 min read time
- This page features 10 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
- The IRS approves most tax refunds within 21 days.
- Filing a paper return adds extra processing time and delays your refund.
- E-filing with direct deposit is the fastest way to receive your tax refund.
- You can check the status of your 2023 tax return online using your Social Security number and the amount of your expected refund.
When To Expect a Tax Refund
For electronic filers, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues most tax refunds within three weeks of receiving a tax return. People who file paper tax returns through the mail and ask for a refund via a paper check can expect to wait longer for their money.
The IRS prefers electronic filing. For tax year 2021, 90% of people filed their individual returns electronically.
Factors Affecting Tax Refund Timing
Several factors affect how long it takes to receive your tax refund.
- Filing Date
- The sooner you file your returns, the sooner you’ll receive your refund. You’re allowed to ask for an extension of the filing deadline for your return. If you need an extension, you can expect to wait longer for any refund.
- IRS Processing Time
- If the IRS has a large backlog of tax returns to process, it will take longer than usual for agents to process yours.
- Filing Method
- Filing your return electronically and asking for a direct-deposit refund is the fastest way to get your money. Filing a paper return or requesting your refund on a paper check adds extra steps to the process and will ensure you have a longer wait time.
- Accuracy of the Return
- If you make mistakes on your return, you’ll need to correct them before the IRS can finalize the return and issue a refund.
IRS staffing can also affect your refund. The agency endured budget cuts and smaller staffs over the past decade, which hampered hiring and created a backlog of work.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury predicts better processing speeds thanks to the addition of more staffers, paid for by an influx of money from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 that upgraded the IRS’s budget.
General Timelines for Tax Refunds
You can expect to receive your refund at different times, depending on how you file your return.
|Filing Method||Refund Method||Estimated Timeline|
|Electronic||Direct Deposit||Up to 21 Days|
|Electronic||Paper Check||21 Days, Plus Postage Time|
|Paper||Direct Deposit||At Least 4 Weeks|
|Paper||Paper Check||Up to 8 Weeks|
Electronically filing a timely and accurate return is the best way to ensure you get your refund as quickly as possible.
Reasons for Delayed Refunds
There are many reasons your tax refund might take longer than usual to arrive.
- Errors on your return.
- Incomplete sections of your return.
- Including Form 8379 (Injured Spouse Allocation) on your return.
- IRS concerns that your return is fraudulent or used for identity theft.
The IRS will never call you directly about your tax return. Instead, it will contact you by mail if it needs more information to process your return. IRS representatives will contact you if they’re investigating your return for potential fraud.
You can check the status of your tax return through the Where’s My Refund? tool on the IRS’s website. You’ll need your Social Security number or taxpayer ID number (TIN) and the exact refund amount stated on your return.
Entering this information into the tool will tell you whether the IRS received your return and whether your refund was approved. If so, funds are on their way.
Tax Refunds and Retirement Accounts
If you’re retired, there’s a chance you won’t need to file an annual tax return. According to tax laws, you don’t need to file a tax return if you don’t owe any taxes.
But it might still be a good idea to file. Filing annual returns while you’re retired ensures that you recover any excess funds that your employer or pension administrators have withheld. It also gives you access to refundable tax credits you might otherwise miss out on.
Income from Social Security, pension benefits, annuities and withdrawals from your IRA, 401(k) or other retirement planning vehicles should all be reported on your tax return. If you’re still working, you must report the income from your job.
If you expect a refund, you can have the money deposited directly into one of your retirement accounts. You can then withdraw it and spend it as usual. This ensures that you get access to your money in the fastest way possible.
Regardless of whether you receive your refund by paper check or direct deposit, you won’t have to pay income tax on that money the following year.
Resources for Tax-Related Questions and Concerns
Still have questions about your tax refund or other tax matters? Check out these government resources created specifically for seniors.
- This IRS Tax Guide for Seniors will tell you everything you need to know to file your tax year 2022 return, including information on deductions and credits that you can use to minimize your taxable income.
- The IRS runs a free program called Tax Counselling for the Elderly (TCE) to answer seniors’ questions about taxes on pensions and other forms of retirement income. You can find a TCE site near you using this webpage.
- This tool can help you find a local tax preparer who holds an Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent credential, a qualification that allows the holder to represent clients before the IRS on matters related to retirement income taxes.
Frequently Asked Questions About When to Expect Tax Refunds
If the tool says that your refund was sent more than 28 days ago and you still have not received it, you may need to file an online claim for a replacement check. The tool will give you detailed instructions on how to do this.
If you filed a paper return over six months prior and the tool says the IRS didn’t receive it, you’ll need to file a new return and wait for that one to be processed.
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10 Cited Research Articles
- Internal Revenue Service. (2023, February 14). Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/refunds/tax-season-refund-frequently-asked-questions
- Internal Revenue Service. (2023, January 23). Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers
- Adeyemo, W. (2023, January 23). Taxpayers Will See Improved Service This Filing Season Thanks to Inflation Reduction Act. Retrieved from https://home.treasury.gov/news/featured-stories/taxpayers-will-see-improved-service-this-filing-season-thanks-to-inflation-reduction-act
- Internal Revenue Service. (2022, September 15). Get Your Refund Faster: Tell IRS to Direct Deposit your Refund to One, Two, or Three Accounts. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/refunds/get-your-refund-faster-tell-irs-to-direct-deposit-your-refund-to-one-two-or-three-accounts
- Internal Revenue Service. (2022, May 26). Returns Filed, Taxes Collected & Refunds Issued. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/statistics/returns-filed-taxes-collected-and-refunds-issued
- Katz, E. (2022, May 5). Millions of Tax Returns Are Currently Delayed Due to IRS Staff Shortages. Retrieved from https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2022/05/millions-tax-returns-are-currently-delayed-due-irs-staff-shortages/366580/
- Winters, M. (2022, April 8). Why you should file a tax return, even if you don’t need to. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/08/why-you-should-file-a-tax-return-even-if-you-dont-need-to.html
- Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. Retrieved from https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf
- Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers
- Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Where’s My Refund? Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/refunds