If you’re curious about when you’ll receive your tax refund, check out my tax refund schedule chart to get an estimate of when to expect it.

It’s tax season again and that means people are interested in when they’re going to receive their tax refunds. 

But before we begin, tax refund timing estimates are never perfect. Several factors impact when you receive any tax refund you claim on your tax return. Here’s what you need to know.

When to expect your tax refund

When Will You Get Your Tax Refund? Here’s A Schedule - When to expect your tax refund

In general, the timeline for receiving tax refunds are relatively predictable. Once the IRS receives your return, they must process it before they can send out your refund. After your return is processed, it’s just a matter of going through the steps. The IRS states most refunds get issued in less than 21 calendar days.

Based on this, here’s an estimate of when you may receive your tax refund based on when and how you file your return. Make sure to use the date the IRS accepts your return for the most accurate estimate.

IRS tax return acceptance date on (or before)Direct deposit refunds may be sent byPaper check refunds may be sent by

Things that can delay your refund

The fastest way to receive a tax refund is by e-filing your return and choosing direct deposit as your refund option. This is the most automated way you can claim your refund which lowers the processing time. If you paper file your return or request a refund check, this may extend the time it takes you to get your refund.

The IRS notes the following issues could also delay your refund:

  • Filing a return that includes errors.
  • Filing an incomplete return.
  • Being impacted by identity theft or fraud.
  • Including Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.
  • Filing a return that needs further review by the IRS.

Already filed your return? Check your refund status

When Will You Get Your Tax Refund? Here’s A Schedule - Already filed your return? Check your refund status

If you’ve already filed your return, you can check your tax return and refund status using the IRS’s Refund Status tool. The tool should be available 24 hours after you e-file your return. Paper returns may take much longer to show up in the tool.

You have to input your Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number, filing status, and refund amount. The IRS will display one of three statuses:

  • Return received
  • Refund approved
  • Refund sent

You can recheck your status as often as you’d like, but the IRS only updates the information once per day. This normally occurs overnight.

Most tax software will also offer easy refund tracking.

What to do with your refund once you receive it

When Will You Get Your Tax Refund? Here’s A Schedule - What to do with your refund once you receive it

Once you finally receive your tax refund, you have a decision to make. What do you do with this financial windfall? You could use it to better your family’s financial picture or to have a bit of fun. Here are some ideas to help you find the best use for your family’s current needs.

Pay off debt

Paying off debt is one of the quickest wins you can get for your tax refund, especially if your debt is at a high-interest rate. People that can pay down loans with interest rates of 8% or higher could save a ton of money on interest payments. While I personally wouldn’t use a tax refund to pay off low-interest-rate debt, such as a 0% car loan or a 3.25% mortgage, it may help you sleep better at night.

To get the biggest bang for your buck, you’d ideally pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. However, others would rather get a sense of accomplishment by paying off some of their debts in full. Some people may want to lower their overall monthly payments. If this is you, pay off your loans from the smallest balance owed to the largest balance owed.

Start or add to an emergency fund

An emergency fund can help anyone and everyone. If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, you can start one with your tax refund. If you already have an emergency fund, you can use your tax refund to add to it.

I personally like keeping my emergency fund at an online bank in a separate bank account from my regular spending money. This helps me keep it separate so I don’t accidentally spend it on things I don’t need. 

When Will You Get Your Tax Refund? Here’s A Schedule - CIT Bank

One savings account you may want to check out is the CIT Bank Savings Builder account. It rewards you with a higher interest rate if you hold a minimum balance of $25,000 in the account or make regular monthly $100 or more contributions to your account. If you’re building an emergency fund, that higher interest rate could be the incentive you need to remember to add $100 per month to your growing emergency fund.

Read more: Best high-yield savings accounts

Invest in stocks, ETFs, or other assets

People that already have their debt under control and a fully stocked emergency fund may want to invest their tax refund. Investing your tax refund could help you grow your wealth over the long term as investment prices as a whole generally rise over long periods.

When Will You Get Your Tax Refund? Here’s The Schedule - Robinhood

If you prefer using a newer app that has challenged financial industry norms, Robinhood may be a good fit for you. They were one of the first firms to offer commission-free trades and they also allow you to trade some cryptocurrencies.

Robinhood doesn’t provide many different account type options, though.

Advertiser Disclosure – This advertisement contains information and materials provided by Robinhood Financial LLC and its affiliates (“Robinhood”) and MoneyUnder30, a third party not affiliated with Robinhood. All investments involve risk and the past performance of a security, or financial product does not guarantee future results or returns. Securities offered through Robinhood Financial LLC and Robinhood Securities LLC, which are members of FINRA and SIPC. MoneyUnder30 is not a member of FINRA or SIPC.” doesn’t provide the ability to invest in cryptocurrency directly, but they allow you to trade bitcoin futures. This shouldn’t be a problem for most investors as E*TRADE offers a wide selection of traditional investment types, including stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds.

Start a side hustle

If you want to start making extra money, you might want to use your tax refund to start a side hustle. Many side hustles don’t have any upfront costs. For example, you can start driving for Uber as long as you have an eligible car and meet the requirements. 

Other side hustles may require a small investment to get started. People that want to start a blog might want to pay for hosting or design services. Small businesses that require tools, equipment, or inventory need funds to cover those initial costs. If you’ve always wanted to turn your woodworking or other hobbies into a business, your tax refund may help cover those upfront costs.

Donate to those in need

When Will You Get Your Tax Refund? Here’s A Schedule - Donate

Unfortunately, there are always people in need. If your family is in good financial shape or you just want to help others, consider donating some of your tax refund to an organization that can help. 

Alternatively, you may personally know a family struggling. You could anonymously give them something to help them get back on their feet financially.

Splurge on an experience or purchase for your family

Your tax refund could provide an excellent opportunity to give your family a fun experience like a trip or an item you’ve been wanting like a gaming system or television.

Think of ways to have the money provide as much value as possible to help your family have fun while staying safe during these trying times.

Improve your home

If your house has some areas requiring maintenance or you simply want to update them, consider using your tax refund to pay for those projects.

Your tax refund may not be enough to pay for the whole project. If the project doesn’t need to be done immediately, you can start saving for it with your tax refund. 

Go back to school

Your tax refund could be the perfect opportunity to learn new skills or bolster your skills in your current career field. You could choose to take a certification program that could help boost your pay or even start attending college to earn a degree.

However, skills are often what pay off the most. Good online courses can help you learn skills that can start making you extra money very quickly. You’ll have to do your research to understand which courses sell you a dream versus those that teach you how to improve your earning potential. Even so, taking the right courses can dramatically increase your income. I know they’ve helped me immensely in the past. 


If you’re wondering when your tax refund might show up in your bank account or mailbox, consult the table above. Remember, certain circumstances can delay your refund check, including the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. If you want to check your specific refund status, you can use the IRS Where’s My Refund tool.

Once you get your refund, make sure you put it to good use. That could include paying off debt, opening a savings account to start an emergency fund, opening an investment account to start investing or spending the money on a fun splurge to raise your family’s spirits.

No matter what you do with your tax refund, make sure you have a plan for it so it doesn’t accidentally get spent on little things here and there that you don’t appreciate.

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About the author

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Lance Cothern is the founder of Money Manifesto, a personal finance blog that helps people to master their money so they can live their ideal life. In addition to blogging, he enjoys spending time at the beach with his family. You can connect with Lance on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.