As we get closer to tax-filing season, millions of Americans
are looking forward to getting their tax refunds. But even as
some tax-preparation companies have published 2014 tax refund
schedules promising your money at certain times, the sad fact is
that the IRS has gone to great lengths to tell taxpayers not to
anticipate getting their refunds by any particular date. As a
result, counting on a published 2014 tax refund schedule could
lead you to make some bad financial decisions.
Why you shouldn't count on a 2014 tax refund schedule
Many tax-preparation companies have already released what look
like official 2014 tax refund schedules. They generally include a
weekly range during which the IRS accepts your return and then
project that the IRS will send a direct-deposit refund by the
following Wednesday or mail a paper-refund check by the following
Friday. For instance, according to a commonly circulated
schedule, someone who has his or her return accepted April 15
would theoretically have a direct-deposit refund sent on April
23, or a paper-refund check mailed on April 25.
The problem, though, is that all of these schedules involve
guesswork. The IRS doesn't give firm processing dates for
refunds, urging taxpayers, "Don't count on getting your refund by
a certain date to make major purchases or pay other financial
obligations." The only thing the IRS will say is that in previous
years it got more than 90% of refunds to taxpayers within 21 days
and that it expects the same this year. Moreover, taxpayers
should heed this warning: "Even though the IRS issues most
refunds in less than 21 days, it's possible your tax return may
require additional review and take longer."
Moreover, having a return received isn't the same as having it
"accepted" or "approved." As
tells its TurboTax users, returns that are filed electronically
get sent to the IRS, but Intuit has to wait 24 to 48 hours for
the IRS to do some internal checks to make sure the basic
personal information on the return is consistent with what it has
in its own records. If that initial return doesn't get accepted,
it can delay your refund. Paper returns can involve even longer
delays, as they require additional handling and processing that
can complicate the process.
tells taxpayers to watch out for factors the IRS has said can
delay your return. For example, botched Social Security numbers,
failure to sign your return, and unusual tax situations that
result in larger-than-average refunds can flag your return for
further processing, delaying your refund.
Don't get tricked
The IRS is acutely aware of the potential problems in promising
an overly ambitious 2014 tax refund schedule. In its reminder to
the tax-preparation community, the IRS notes that "providers must
not use improper or misleading advertising in relation to IRS
e-file, including the time frames for refunds." That's why most
of the schedules you'll see have notes that emphasize that they
are only estimates rather than official proclamations from the
Your smartest move is not to rely on any sort of 2014
tax-refund schedule in planning how to spend your refund. Using
e-filing and direct deposit will make your refund come as quickly
as possible, even if it doesn't adhere to the schedule
Be smart about your taxes
Getting your refund as quickly as possible is just one way you
can make your tax season go more smoothly in 2014. In our
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has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on
Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Intuit. The
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