[2021 IRS refund schedule] While the 2020 tax season was much longer then planned due to the Coronavirus/COVID related impacts, we can expect it to return to normal in 2021 with tax returns able to be filed in January and refunds to start processing from February. It is likely to be a very busy period with many tax payers claiming their missing stimulus check payments and millions more filing a return to get access to their stimulus checks. I’ll post an updated 2021 refund schedule shortly once the IRS confirms the official start of the tax season, so stay tuned and subscribe to get the latest updates.
Below is the latest table showing estimated tax season refund payment dates based on past refund cycles and IRS guidelines. It shows the date your refund will be processed and paid based on the week your return is accepted by the IRS. For refund dates specific to your tax filing go to the Where is my Refund (WMR) page or IRS2Go mobile application.
[COVID-19 impact update] The IRS has announced, under the national emergency provision to tackle the Coronavirus, that they will postpone the April 15 tax-payment deadline for millions of individuals, giving Americans an additional 90 days, to July 15, to pay file and pay their 2019 income-tax bills in an unprecedented move intended to ease the economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak. Further, because the IRS is now focused on paying out the 2020 economic stimulus payments and supporting the new UI stimulus measures in place with other agencies, refund payments will likely be delayed well past the estimated dates shown in the table below. Many readers have reported this and while it is very frustrating, there is not much that can be done given the economic fallout from the virus and soaring unemployment claims.
|Tax Return Accepted by IRS After|
(WMR status = Return Received)
|IRS Refund Approved|
(WMR status = Refund Approved)
|Estimated Refund Date (via Direct Deposit)||Estimated Refund Date (via Paper Check)|
|January 27, 2020||February 2, 2020||February 14, 2020||February 28, 2020|
|February 3, 2020||February 9, 2020||February 21, 2020||March 6, 2020|
|February 10, 2020||February 16, 2020||February 28, 2020||March 13, 2020|
|February 17, 2020||February 23, 2020||March 6, 2020||March 20, 2020|
|February 24, 2020||March 1, 2020||March 13, 2020||March 27, 2020|
|March 2, 2020||March 8, 2020||March 20, 2020||April 3, 2020|
|March 9, 2020||March 15, 2020||March 27, 2020||April 10, 2020|
|March 16, 2020||March 22, 2020||April 3, 2020||April 17, 2020|
|March 23, 2020||March 29, 2020||April 10, 2020||April 24, 2020|
|March 30, 2020||April 5, 2020||April 17, 2020||May 1, 2020|
|April 6, 2020||April 12, 2020||April 24, 2020||May 8, 2020|
|April 13, 2020||April 19, 2020||May 1, 2020||May 15, 2020|
|April 20, 2020||April 26, 2020||May 8, 2020||May 22, 2020|
|April 27, 2020||May 3, 2020||May 15, 2020||May 29, 2020|
|May 4, 2020||May 10, 2020||May 22, 2020||June 5, 2020|
|May 11, 2020||May 17, 2020||May 29, 2020||June 12, 2020|
|May 18, 2020||May 24, 2020||June 5, 2020||June 19, 2020|
|May 25, 2020||May 31, 2020||June 12, 2020||June 26, 2020|
|June 1, 2020||June 7, 2020||June 19, 2020||July 3, 2020|
|June 8, 2020||June 14, 2020||June 26, 2020||July 10, 2020|
|June 15, 2020||June 21, 2020||July 3, 2020||July 17, 2020|
|June 22, 2020||June 28, 2020||July 10, 2020||July 24, 2020|
|June 29, 2020||July 5, 2020||July 17, 2020||July 31, 2020|
|July 6, 2020||July 12, 2020||July 24, 2020||August 7, 2020|
|July 13, 2020||July 19, 2020||July 31, 2020||August 14, 2020|
|July 20, 2020||July 26, 2020||August 7, 2020||August 21, 2020|
|July 27, 2020||August 2, 2020||August 14, 2020||August 28, 2020|
|August 3, 2020||August 9, 2020||August 21, 2020||September 4, 2020|
|August 10, 2020||August 16, 2020||August 28, 2020||September 11, 2020|
|August 17, 2020||August 23, 2020||September 4, 2020||September 18, 2020|
|August 24, 2020||August 30, 2020||September 11, 2020||September 25, 2020|
|August 31, 2020||September 6, 2020||September 18, 2020||October 2, 2020|
|September 7, 2020||September 13, 2020||September 25, 2020||October 9, 2020|
|September 14, 2020||September 20, 2020||October 2, 2020||October 16, 2020|
|September 21, 2020||September 27, 2020||October 9, 2020||October 23, 2020|
|September 28, 2020||October 4, 2020||October 16, 2020||October 30, 2020|
|October 5, 2020||October 11, 2020||October 23, 2020||November 6, 2020|
|October 12, 2020||October 18, 2020||October 30, 2020||November 13, 2020|
|October 19, 2020||October 25, 2020||November 6, 2020||November 20, 2020|
|October 26, 2020||November 1, 2020||November 13, 2020||November 27, 2020|
|November 2, 2020||November 8, 2020||November 20, 2020||December 4, 2020|
|November 9, 2020||November 15, 2020||November 27, 2020||December 11, 2020|
|November 16, 2020||November 22, 2020||December 4, 2020||December 18, 2020|
|November 23, 2020||November 29, 2020||December 11, 2020||December 25, 2020|
|November 30, 2020||December 6, 2020||December 18, 2020||January 1, 2021|
|December 7, 2020||December 13, 2020||December 25, 2020||January 8, 2021|
|December 14, 2020||December 20, 2020||January 1, 2021||January 15, 2021|
|December 21, 2020||December 27, 2020||January 8, 2021||January 22, 2021|
|December 28, 2020||January 3, 2021||January 15, 2021||January 29, 2021|
|January 4, 2021||January 10, 2021||January 22, 2021||February 5, 2021|
Note that Jan 27th is when the IRS E-file system will start processing electronic and paper tax returns. Even if you submitted before this date, don’t expect refund processing and payments to take place beforehand.
EITC and ACTC Related Tax Refund Delays (PATH) Update: As in previous tax seasons a number of tax payers will see refund processing delays. The IRS had already announced that it will have to hold/delay refund payments for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC) due to additional anti-fraud safeguards/reviews under newly enacted laws (PATH Act). But the IRS is now processing refunds which were originally being held up due to PATH mandates. You should no longer be seeing the PATH message as a blocker to get your refund processed and paid. If held up for other reasons (see below) you will get the applicable message/follow-up action.
The federal IRS refund schedule table below is only for electronically filed returns (e-file) done thorough online tax software providers and assumes your tax return was in order. I.e accepted by the IRS via the WMR tool and status is equal to “Return Received”. Paper filed returns can take considerably longer and would add 1 to 2 weeks to the time frames below. Again, use the the tax refund chart below as a guideline and refer to the IRS WMR tool for specific time frames related to your return.
Also note that it could take much longer to get your refund if the IRS deems your tax return submission needs further reviews or your identity needs to be verified. This would add two to nine weeks to the date range of your refund delivery date.
For those impacted by tax refund delays (and it will be a lot this year) make sure you also scroll through some of the 8500+ comments below this article from current and prior years for further ideas/support, including some useful tips and tricks to find out your refund status if you are not getting much insight from the IRS WMR tool. So hang in there if you are dealing with extended delays for getting for your federal tax refund. You are not alone.
For those experiencing ongoing issues or delays with their refunds check out this article on “Why is it taking so long to get my refund.” The IRS has said that phone and walk-in representatives can research the status of your refund only if it’s been 21 days or more since you filed electronically, more than 6 weeks since you mailed your paper return or if the IRS tool Where’s My Refund? directs you to contact them. The WMR tool will also provide an actual refund date as soon as the IRS processes your tax return and approves your refund. If your refund is taking much longer than the above schedule, and assuming your return was accepted by the IRS, please leave a comment below for the benefit of other readers. I can try digging into the reasons if a few people are seeing delays.
Help! My WMR status bar has disappeared – Does this mean by return is still being processed and/or will my refund be delayed?
As many folks have commented, the WMR tracker status bar may disappear or not be shown if your return falls under IRS review after it is received (Status Bar 1: Return Received) because additional information is needed for your return. This can happen even if you previously checked WMR and it showed the status as “Return Received.” An explanation or instructions will be provided depending on the situation (eg PATH message or see Tax Topic 152 as discussed below)
But don’t panic when this happens. The IRS still has your return but things are essentially on hold until the IRS gets the additional information from you to continue processing your return . You will either get directions on WMR or IRS2Go or the IRS will contact you by mail. Follow the provided instructions and return any additional information ASAP to get your potential refund and reduce any further delays. Talk to your accountant, tax advocate or tax professional if you are not clear on what the IRS is asking for or you don’t get an update after 21 days.
WMR Path, Tax Topic 152 and 151 message
Two of the most common refund related messages showing up on the WMR tool after your tax return is submitted are the PATH message and to Refer to Tax Topic 152. The PATH message relates to the The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (PATH Act of 2015) and is to notify you that the IRS is required to hold refunds claiming the EITC/ACTC until Feb. 15 as described above due to further identity verification.
When you see the “Refer to Tax Topic 152” message it means your refund is being processed and the IRS is directing you its generic refund page for more information. There is not much you can do but wait to see if the IRS finds any issues or requires further verification of your identity or items in your tax return. See the various reader comments below on timing and their experience after getting this and other WMR messages.
A Tax Topic 151 message simply means that you’re getting a tax offset which may result in your refund being less than you expected. The reason for this is that the federal government has “offset” or deducted monies from your tax refund to cover debts you owe other federal agencies. You will get an official IRS letter/report explaining the actual offset and adjustments to your tax return, and details on how to appeal this action – but likely it will delay you getting your refund. While not great news, the silver lining here is that the IRS has processed your return and your adjusted refund (where applicable) should be on its way.
If I can order my IRS tax transcript does it mean I am getting my refund soon?
This question comes up a lot and I have seen a few comments on this suggesting that that if you can order your transcript then your refund is on the way. But this is not a factual statement. Yes there is a correlation because to get a transcript the IRS generally has to have processed your tax return (and refund where applicable). But the IRS is very clear that being able to request a transcript does not mean you will imminently be getting a refund and is among the common myths and misconceptions repeated in social media. The IRS’ official line is that checking the WMR tool is the best and official way to check your refund status.
However I have read a number of comments here and on other tax sites saying that when the WMR site provides limited information on the refund, requesting a free IRS transcript seems to be another way of checking the status of the refund. Generally if you can request a transcript, it means the refund is on the way and the IRS has completed processing of your tax return. But this is all anecdotal evidence.
A note about IRS system issues and refund delays
It appears that the IRS is again having issues with processing returns in a timely manner and so a number of people are seeing delays in getting their refunds or updates in the status of their refund on the WMR tool/app. The IRS has said that all system issues have now been resolved but given the various legacy systems they have and volume of processing I would not be surprised to see system problems arise again this year, which mean delays in processing and paying refunds.
Amended Tax Return Refund Schedule
While the IRS promises to have regular return refunds processed within 21 days for nine out of ten tax payers, it does take quite a bit longer to receive a refund if you amended your tax return. Generally you will have to wait 8 to 12 weeks more for the IRS to process amended returns since they prioritize regular returns. Also note that the standard”Where’s my refund” service from the IRS does not track amended tax return status’. You need to instead use the IRS tool, Where’s My Amended Return.” You can also access the tool via phone by calling 1-866-464-2050. Only call the IRS to follow up on delayed amended return refunds after 12 weeks. The number to call is 1-800-829-1040.
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