Don't let wrong IRS EIP or CTC letter info stop you from filing your taxes
Recovery Rebate Credit on 2021 tax return could help get missed COVID stimulus money

When will you get your tax refund?

Princess Bride impatience via Giphy.comPrincess Bride impatience via

The tax filing season just opened yesterday, Monday, Jan. 24. But lots of folks have already filed the 2021 taxes, most of them because they are expecting refunds.

And they're already wondering when those refunds will arrive.

It's a valid question, especially since millions of taxpayers are still awaiting refunds from their 2020 returns. The Internal Revenue Service said that as of as of Dec. 4, 2021, it still had nearly 7 million unprocessed individual returns from the 2020 tax year.

What does that mean to this year's filing? The IRS says it will work on those 2020 forms simultaneously with the 2021 ones it just started processing. If you're waiting for a refund for both years, you might get your 2021 return before you get your 2020 one.

There's not a lot you can do right now about that older filing. But here are a few more tax refund tidbits that could help you get your 2021 return's tax cash more quickly.

Electronic expeditiousness: Electronic transactions, be they professional, social, or financial, are second nature to most of us. That applies to taxes, too. Last year, around 90 percent of tax returns were e-filed.

The IRS wants that filing method to continue. Not only is it faster and easier for the tax agency — there's no hand-entering of paper return data into the system, and e-filed returns tend to have fewer errors — it's also better for filers.

But you need to take one more digital step. Have your refund directly deposited.

When your e-filed return produces a refund, and the IRS is instructed to send that refund straight to a financial institution, the money usually is on its way to the taxpayer in 21 days.

Accuracy counts: We all make mistakes, but if you want your refund as soon as possible, then you need to make sure it's error-free.

Don't file until you're ready. That means waiting for key tax statements you need to fill out your Form 1040.

This filing season, that includes IRS notices with details on COVID-related 2021 tax credits that were pre-paid last year. Yep, we're talking the third economic impact payment (EIP), which could be as much as $1,400 per person, and the advance Child Tax Credit, which, depending on the ages of your kiddos could have amounted to as much as $1,800 for each eligible child age 6 or younger or $1,500 per child for youngsters ages 6 to 17.

The IRS is sending Letter 6419 to advance CTC recipients and Letter 6475 to those who got EIPs. The amounts in these letters will help you file for any additional credit amounts you're due.

One alert here. There have been reports of wrong information in the letters. In these cases, the IRS say to use your documentation of the payments you received to file your return.

You also might want to peruse this tax filing checklist.

Some refunds held by law: In some cases, regardless of how accurately and early you file your return, your refund won't be issued until mid-February.

It's not the IRS' fault. It's the law.

A tax law enacted back in 2015, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH, Act included a provision that prevents the IRS from issuing refunds until mid-February on returns where taxpayers claim the Additional Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The reason is to give the IRS more time to find and stop fraudulent refunds associated with these credits.

So even when the IRS has no problem processing your return, if you claimed one or both of those tax breaks, you're going to have to wait for your refund.

And speaking of processing, that delay means that your refund likely won't arrive until early March, said Ken Corbin, Wage and Investment Division Commissioner and the IRS' first Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer.

E-tracking your refund: OK, so you've filed your return and you're confident that your 1040 will meet IRS muster. How can you double check when you should expect your refund.

You can go online. Yep, we're circled back to electronic taxes.

The IRS' Where's My Refund? online search tool is operational. It will display the status of the most recent tax year refund that the IRS has on file for you. You also can download the IRS2Go app to your mobile devices and check your refund status there.

Your refund info should be available via the online tracker 24 hours after e-filing. If you're old school and snail mailed your paper Form 1040, you need to wait four weeks after the U.S. Postal Service picked it up before you check Where's My Refund?

The IRS updates the refund database daily, usually overnight. So multiple check-ins a day are not going to get you any new information.

That said, it sometimes takes a bit longer for the refund info to appear at Where's My Refund? As an alternative, you might want to also check your online taxpayer account or set one up. There you can find your refund and other tax data.

Patience, please: As you've probably figured out by all the caveats associated with tax filing and refund issuance, even in the best of tax season times, refunds don't arrive as quickly as we want.

So make use of the best tax tool. Patience. 

Yoga posture

Yeah, I know. That's easier said than done. The IRS knows it, too.

But taking a tolerant view of your refund's status — and taking a few (or more) deep breaths or maybe a yoga class or two — could help all of us get through this 2022 filing season.

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