2021 Federal Tax Refund Schedule: When the IRS Pays You Back

LAST UPDATED: FEBRUARY 03, 2021

There are only a few big things most people look forward to on a yearly basis: the holidays, vacation, and getting your tax refund. Getting that hard-earned money returned to you from the federal government is important for many people as it is how they pay off large debts, improve their homes, or go on vacation. Every year we file our taxes and every year we also find ourselves wondering when our tax return will be deposited in our bank accounts.

The federal government does give a set of guidelines that can help us to decipher when we will get our tax return back. Unfortunately, that set of guidelines is not set in stone. It's almost impossible to know exactly when you will be able to expect your tax refund. The IRS does, however, do their best to give taxpayers and idea of how long it will take for them to process the return as well as how long it will take to get your refund back once the return is processed. These estimates aren't perfect but they are a good way to help you to figure out when your refund should be deposited in your bank account.

The Importance of Not Relying on Refunds

One thing that the IRS has always done is to urge taxpayers not to rely on their refund when they are planning their finances for the year. Many times taxpayers will take out short-term loans believing that they will receive their taxes back in more than enough time to pay off the loan. If the loan does not arrive in time the borrower may have to deal with large fines and more expensive interest rates. That is why it is vital to make sure that you don't rely on your tax refund.

The Government Shutdown

Remember the government shutdown that occurred in January of 2019 that was plastered all over the news and on every social media site. While the government said, at the time, that the IRS would still be processing tax returns during the shutdown, the shutdown has caused some complications. The shutdown is now over but there if one occured again there could be a slight bit of delay in the refund schedule.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect in January of 2018. This act changed a lot of things for the IRS and it is believed that they are still learning how to handle it. It's also important to know that the new tax 1040 form is also going into effect for the 2018 returns. Not only will that create a bit of confusion, it's likely that the change in form will make it take a little bit longer for you to receive your returns. Because of all these changes, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) stated in September of 2018 that taxpayers should be very patient when they were filing their 2018 returns.

Finding Your Tax Refund Schedule

While it is almost impossible to know for sure exactly when you're going to receive your refund, there are ways to track your tax refund from the federal government. The best way To do this is to use the Where's My Refund online site that you can find on the IRS website. If you choose to e-file your return you can actually check in about 24 hours and the website will give you a decent idea of when your refund is likely to be deposited in your bank account. If, however, you file a paper return it can take up to four weeks after the date you mailed the return in for the information to be available on the website. The nice thing about the IRS's online tool is that you can keep watch easily of what process your refund is at. The online site will tell you when the refund was received, when it was reviewed, and when the review is complete. This is definitely the best way to know, for sure, exactly when your refund is going to be deposited.

People with smartphones can also use the Where's My Refund app to keep track of their refunds. This is honestly a much easier way for those who are technologically savvy and who rely on their smartphones on a daily basis to follow their tax return from start to finish as you will receive push notifications that tell you exactly what is going on with your federal return.

While it is possible to use a tax refund schedule to help you to estimate when you may receive your refund, it's important that you do as the IRS has recommended and don't rely on the schedule entirely. Track your tax refund, instead, and you'll be able to know exactly when you should receive your refund.