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Tax refund day is here! Sort of.

This post was updated Feb. 16, 2018.

The wait is over! Feb. 15 was the day that the Internal Revenue Service can finally start issuing refunds to folks who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).

Celebrating a tax refund_eFile989 via Flickr
Photo by eFile989 via Flickr

But don't head to your bank just yet.

Cleared, but not completed: The refund hold was mandated by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH, Act as a way, in part, to help stop tax identity theft and refund fraud. That hold now is officially over.

But from the very beginning of filing season, the IRS has warned refund-eager filers that it likely will be the end of February before their tax money actually shows up in accounts.

It reiterated that message in a special email yesterday to tax professionals:

By law, the IRS is required to hold EITC and ACTC refunds until Feb. 15. However, taxpayers may not see those refunds until the week of Feb. 27. Due to differing timeframes with financial institutions, weekends and the Presidents Day holiday, these refunds likely will not start arriving in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of Feb. 27 -- if there are no processing issues with the tax return and the taxpayer chose direct deposit.

Yep, you read that last line right. The IRS is giving itself a little more wiggle room by noting that run-of-the-mill tax return and refund processing issues could push the refund delivery date even further.

So what are you to do aside from scream?

Check online: The IRS suggests that you check its online Where's My Refund? status tool. 

The online refund tracker should soon be updated with the bulk of refund information for filers who claimed the EITC and/or ACTC.

And while I really, really hate to put yet another damper on your refund tracking enthusiasm, don't be surprised if the tool runs a bit slowly.

In past years when special circumstances, usually produced when Congress acted on tax laws at the last minute, the swamped online refund tracker ran into some troubles. I'm hoping that won't happen this year, but it's better to expect the worse and be pleasantly surprised.

To take some of the pressure off Where's My Refund?, the IRS reminds taxpayers to only call once a day. That's the frequency with which the system will be updated, usually in the evening.

What not to do: Also, don't bother a real IRS representative with questions about when you might get your refund. The story that such calls will speed up your refund delivery is, to borrow a phrase, fake news.

We're entering the busiest time for the IRS, which means its free telephone assistance hotline is generally jammed with folks seeking help to file their returns.

The IRS phone representatives do not (emphasis by the IRS) have additional information on refund dates beyond what taxpayers have access to on "Where's My Refund?" So don't call the general help line unless you're directed to do so by the refund tool.

You also might want to check out the common refund myths that are circulating this filing season. They will help you get a better handle on what's really happening with your tax return and refund.

Patience pays off: The bottom line is to be patient.

Some folks are posting expected delivery dates for refunds, but those are just clickbait guesses. They're based on historic IRS data showing that refunds typically go out by at least 21 days after a return is filed.

That's the typical delivery prognostication. Your refund, however, could arrive sooner or, unfortunately, later.

So hang in there. You'll eventually get your refund.

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