A tax refund isn’t really extra money – even if a lot of people treat it that way. Rather it is an “overpayment,” meaning you paid ahead and now are getting it back. For many, waiting for the refund can be frustrating, but this year with the rising costs of everything from groceries to gasoline, that refund can be a lifeline.
As of April 16, the Internal Revenue Series (IRS) has received more than 110 million tax returns and has already issued $210 billion in refunds. However, this year refund delays are common, with everything from staffing issues to slower mail to a backlog of 2019 taxes, making many taxpayers wait longer than ever.
The IRS has now offered some tips on how you can ensure you get your refund – your money – sooner. If you have already filed, there isn’t really a lot you can do to speed the effort. You can check the status of your refund via an IRS tracking tool.
Still Need to File?
For those who have let you file, know that even as the deadline has been extended this year to May 17, the sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund. The IRS has urged taxpayers and preparers to use electronic options as opposed to submitting a paper return. Additionally, the IRS has suggested that you set up a direct deposit so that a refund doesn’t need to printed as a check that can take days (or unfortunately longer) to reach you in the mail.
To help with the electronic filing there is the IRS Free File, an online portal that allows taxpayers to prepare and file their tax returns electronically and for free, as the name suggests. The program is available to anyone with an income of $72,000 or less. By filing electronically, those expecting a return can see the money faster.
Even those who made above the $72,000 threshold can use the Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of the IRS paper forms. The forms will still have to be mailed in, but the use of the forms can still speed the process.
Active duty military and even some veterans may be eligible for MilTax, Military OneSource’s tax service. It offers online software to eligible individuals to electronically file a federal return and up to three state returns for free.
Check Your Work
The IRS has anticipated that nine of ten taxpayers should expect to receive their refund within just twenty-one days from when the taxpayer filed electronically with direct deposit. The key is for there to be no issues with the tax return.
In other words, if you’re filing yourself or even if you are using a preparer you should spend a few extra minutes reviewing the tax forms. Basic mistakes can slow down the refund process considerably.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons for a delay can be identity fraud. To ensure that someone doesn’t get your money, there is the option of using an Identity Protection Pin, which is now available to all taxpayers. The IP is a six-digit number that can prevent someone else from trying to file a return using your Social Security Number (SSN). Known only to the taxpayer and the IRS, the pin is a second level of protection that provides that extra security.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.