Depending on who you ask, tax season is either winding down or ramping up and coming down to the wire. For the proactive taxpayers out there who have already filed, the next question you must be asking is: Where is my tax refund? If you're due a check from the government for a few thousand dollars, it's perfectly understandable that you're anxious to know where your money is.
Fortunately for us, the IRS has a tool to help you find the location of your refund. To use it, you'll need to know your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact amount of your refund. They use this information to prove you are who you say you are--otherwise anyone could check your rebate. The IRS website's information does lag reality by a fair margin because of the sheer volume of returns it is processing. What we do know is that e-filers have to wait 10 to 21 days before they can check online, and paper filers should wait four weeks. If you haven't filed yet, that alone should be reason enough to e-file.
The IRS also works off an e-filing processing schedule, so you can generally expect a direct deposit to arrive one week after the following Tuesday. If you were to file on Wednesday, find the next Tuesday and add one week--that's the day you should expect a direct deposit if there are no issues with your return. Checks are sent out two days later. These are only general guidelines, released by the IRS, and you should not panic if it's been 10 days and you haven't seen the transfer.
The takeaway from this schedule, and the IRS guidelines, is that you need to e-file your taxes and request direct deposit if you want to get your refund check as fast as possible. The difference between direct deposit and a paper check can be as long as a week. The check is mailed two days after a direct deposit would have been initiated, and the check still needs to move through the postal system. If it doesn't get lost, which is a possibility, you might be lucky to get it the next week. Finally, mailing a paper return adds an extra four weeks to the whole process. At that point, I wouldn't bother checking for your check until June!
So if you want your refund quickly, e-file and request direct deposit. E-file isn't free, but direct deposit is.
Jim Wang writes about personal finance at Bargaineering.com. When he's not tackling money issues, he's usually looking forward to his next vacation and writing about it at wanderlustjourney.com.