Tax Refund Schedule 2021: When to Expect Your Tax Refund

by Jennifer Smith, CPA, JD, CDEI, and Trevor Antley | Jan 12, 2021

Popular CE/CPE Course for Tax Preparers/Enrolled Agents/CPAs: 2021 Annual Tax Season Update

2021 Tax Refund Schedule and Tax Refund Frequently Asked Questions

If you are a tax professional, we know you’re always looking for the most effective ways to serve your clients. That’s why we’ve provided this projected 2021 IRS tax refund calendar and accompanying article so you can quickly answer your clients’ questions, including:

  • Has the tax deadline been extended? (YES!)
  • When will I receive my tax refund?
  • What's the fastest way to get my tax refund?
  • How can I track the status of my tax return?
  • How will EITC and ACTC tax credits affect when I receive my refund?
  • Will COVID-19 delay my tax refund?
  • and more!

The table below shows a tax refund calendar with the projected dates your clients should receive their tax refund by either direct deposit or check. Our tax refund calendar relies on guidance issued by the IRS and historical trends and is updated as the IRS provides new information.

New 2021 Tax Deadline Extension

Tax day has been extended to May 17, 2021.

The deadline for submitting tax returns and making tax payments has been extended to May 17, 2021. The extra time is intended to ease the burden on taxpayers who are dealing with the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, which has left millions without jobs or with reduced work hours.

"This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "Even with the new deadline, we urge taxpayers to consider filing as soon as possible, especially those who are owed refunds. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds, and it can help some taxpayers more quickly receive any remaining stimulus payments they may be entitled to."

The tax deadline extension was announced on March 17, 2021, initially by U.S. Representatives Richard Neal of Massachusetts and Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey. The IRS issued a press release shortly afterward.

2021 Federal Tax Refund Schedule & Delivery Time

Federal Tax Refund Delivery Time

Are you wondering how long it takes for the IRS to issue federal tax refunds? The answer depends on how you filed your tax return (electronically or by mail) and how you choose to receive your refund (bank deposit or check by mail). You can see the different time tables for tax refund delivery time in the table below.

Tax Refund Delivery Type Tax Refund Delivery Time
E-file and direct deposit 1–3 weeks (usually 2 weeks)
Paper file by mail and direct deposit 3 weeks
E-file and tax refund check by mail 6–8 weeks
Paper file by mail and tax refund check by mail 6–8 weeks

2021 IRS Refund Schedule Chart

Are you wondering what date you should receive your federal tax refund? The IRS issues over 90% of tax refunds in less than 21 days after the tax returns are processed. The IRS has currently not released an official tax refund calendar for the 2021 tax season (2020 tax year). Still, based on statements from the IRS and trends over past years, the estimates in the following chart should be accurate for the vast majority of taxpayers (see exceptions below).

Date Return Filed

Date Direct Deposit Sent

Date Paper Check Mailed

February 12–13, 2021

February 26, 2021

March 5, 2021

February 14–20

March 5

March 12

February 21–27

March 12

March 19

February 28–March 6

March 19

April 26

March 7–13

March 26

April 2

March 14–20

April 2

April 9

March 21–27

April 91

April 161

March 28–April 3

April 161

April 231

April 4–10

April 231

April 301

April 11–17

April 301

May 71

April 18–24

May 7

May 14

April 25–May 1

May 14

May 21

May 2–8

May 21

May 28

May 9–15

May 281

June 41

May 16–22

June 4

June 11

May 23–29

June 11

June 18

May 30–June 5

June 18

June 25

June 6–12

June 25

July 2

June 13–19

July 2

July 9

June 20–26

July 9

July 16

June 27–July 3

July 16

July 23

July 4–July 10

July 23

July 30

July 11–17

July 30

August 6

July 18–24

August 6

August 13

July 25–31

August 13

August 20

1 Note that during the peak of tax filing season, it may take slightly longer for the IRS to process tax returns. Traditionally, the busy season begins around late March and lasts through April 15. Since the tax deadline has been extended to May 17, 2021, that could either decongest the busy season or delay the busy season until late April/May. The IRS still plans to send the vast majority of tax refunds within three weeks of processing the tax return.

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Tracking Your 2021 Tax Refund

2021 Tax Refund Schedule & Frequently Asked Tax Refund Questions

The IRS has provided two free tools for taxpayers to track the status of their 2021 tax refund:

To check the status of your tax refund using either of these tools, you will need:

To use the online Where's My Refund tool, you will need to enter your Social Security number or ITIN, filing status, and refund amount. If you entered the information correctly, the tool should take you to a page showing the status of your tax refund. If it shows an error, you may be prompted to verify your information and to try again. If the information you entered was correct, it will ask you to enter the date you filed your taxes and whether you filed electronically or by mail.

The IRS2Go mobile app works in a similar way and requires the same information as the online tool. The data used by the mobile app is only updated once every 24 hours, so if you don't initially see a change in your return's status, check again the next day.

Taxpayers should be able to see their tax return status within 24 hours if they filed their tax return electronically. If they submit their tax return by mail, it may take up to four weeks to see their refund status.

Tax Return Status: Received, Approved, Sent

Both the online and mobile tax refund status tools use the same three messages to show your tax refund status:

  • Received: The IRS has your tax return and is processing it.
  • Approved: The IRS has approved your tax return and confirmed the amount of your tax refund (if a refund is warranted).
  • Sent: Your refund has been sent using the method you specified, whether electronically to your bank or as a check in the mail.

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Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) & Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC)

In accordance with the PATH Act, taxpayers whose tax returns include an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) are not allowed to receive their federal tax refunds before February 15, regardless of how early they file their tax return with the IRS.

This year, most taxpayers with EITC and/or ACTC credits who filed during the first week of tax season should have received their refund during the first week of March (likely March 5, 2021). However, this only applies to taxpayers who filed their tax return electronically, chose to receive their refund by direct deposit, and the IRS found no other issues with their tax return. The IRS noted this would be the same experience for taxpayers if the filing season had opened in late January.

If the taxpayer did not file their tax return early and they have EITC or ACTC credits, their tax refund could be delayed 2–3 weeks longer due to the law requiring the IRS to verify taxpayers’ qualifications for these credits. For example, if they filed their tax return within the week of March (March 7–March 13), their tax refund may not arrive until April 9, 2021, even though the calendar in this article gives an expected return date of March 26, 2021.

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New Credits, Deductions, and Refunds in 2021

For the 2021 tax season, the IRS has noted these new key items for taxpayers to consider involving credits, deductions, and refunds:

Economic Impact Payment/Recovery Rebate Credit

Taxpayers who received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus payment) should keep their 2020 Economic Impact Payment Notice 1444 with their 2020 tax records. Even if they received their Economic Impact Payment by direct deposit, the IRS would have mailed their Notice 1444 record within 15 days of the payment going out.

To be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 federal income tax return, taxpayers must have either 1) not received an Economic Impact Payment; or 2) received an Economic Impact Payment of less than $1,200 ($2,400 if married filing jointly).

Interest on Refunds Taxable

Taxpayers who received a federal tax refund in 2020 may have been paid interest. Refund interest payments are taxable, and taxpayers must report them on federal income tax returns. In January 2021, the IRS sent Form 1099-INT to anyone who received interest totaling $10 or more.

Charitable Deduction Changes

New for the 2021 tax season, taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions may take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made in 2020 to qualifying charity organizations. For more information about charitable deductions, taxpayers can refer to the IRS resource Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

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How to Get Your Tax Refund as Fast as Possible

If you want your tax refund as soon as possible, you are far from alone. Here's what taxpayers can do to ensure they receive their tax refund as quickly as possible.

Request Direct Deposit

According to the IRS, the best and fastest way to receive your tax refund is to opt for direct deposit into your bank account. The IRS allows your tax refund to be deposited into one account or split between separate accounts.

Double Check Your Tax Return Information

Mistakes on tax returns are the biggest slow-down in receiving tax refunds. You can ensure your tax return and refund are processed quickly by double or triple checking the information on your tax return before you file.

Here are some questions you can ask while double checking your tax return information:

  • Did you review the identifying numbers (SSN or ITIN) for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents?
  • Is the information for your dependents correct?
  • Did you Check to make sure your routing and account number are accurate for direct deposit?
  • Did you electronically sign your tax return?

File Your Tax Return Electronically

The IRS says combining direct deposit with electronic filing is the quickest way to get your tax refund. Over 90% of tax refunds are issued in less than 21 days.

If your adjusted gross income is less than $72,000, you can file your tax return electronically for free using the IRS Free File Program. Otherwise you will need a the assistance of tax software or a tax professional. Tax software can also flag any errors or mistakes on your tax return ahead of time.

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Winter Storm Tax Filing Extensions (TX/OK/LA)

The tax deadline for taxpayers in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana has been extended to June 15, 2021, due to the severe winter storms which occurred in February 2021. Individuals and households in all 254 Texas counties, all 77 Oklahoma counties, and all 64 Louisiana parishes qualify for the deadline extension to submit tax returns and make tax payments.

The total list of eligible localities is available on the disaster relief page on the IRS website. Taxpayers in states other than Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana who were impacted by these winter storms can also request the same filing and payment relief.

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2021 Tax Refund Frequently Asked Questions

When did the 2021 tax season start?

The 2021 tax season began on February 12, 2021. This is later than in past years. In their announcement, the IRS stated the February 12 start date “allowed the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.”

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When can I begin filing my 2021 taxes?

You can file your taxes now. The 2021 tax season began on February 12, 2021. Taxpayers around the country may now begin filing their tax returns at their convenience. It’s recommended you file your taxes electronically rather than through the mail to avoid any delays in receiving your tax refund.

This tax season, taxpayers did not have to wait until February 12 to begin filing their taxes. Taxpayers could start filing their tax returns using a trusted tax professional or an IRS Free File partner. These groups began accepting tax returns early and transmitted the returns to the IRS after the tax season began on February 12.

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When will I get my 2021 tax refund?

In nine out of ten cases, taxpayers will receive their tax refund within three weeks of filing their return. For the general date of when they should receive their refund, see our 2021 Tax Refund Schedule above.

If their tax return includes Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) credits, their tax refund may be delayed two to three weeks longer.

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When is the 2021 tax deadline?

The IRS has extended the deadline for filing federal income tax returns to May 17, 2021 (approximately one month extension from the original April 15 deadline). For taxpayers in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma affected by the February 2021 winter storms, the filing deadline has been extended to June 15, 2021.

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Can I file an extension if I miss the tax deadline?

Taxpayers who miss the extended May 17, 2021 deadline can easily file an extension form without needing an excuse or reason by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return PDF. This form will give the taxpayer until October 15, 2021 to file their tax return with the IRS.

However, if the taxpayer will owe taxes instead of receiving a refund, it is their obligation to file their tax return by the April 15 extended May 17 deadline.

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Is the IRS extending the tax return deadline?

Yes, the IRS has extended the deadline for filing tax returns and making tax payments to May 17, 2021, an approximate one-month extension from the original April 15 deadline. This extension applies to the current 2021 tax season.

The IRS extended the tax filing deadline for residents of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma severely affected by the February 2021 winter storms to June 15, 2021.

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Is the tax filing deadline extended for Texas residents?

Due to the February 2021 winter storms, the deadline for residents of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma to file individual and business tax returns and make tax payments has been extended to June 15, 2021.

The tax deadline for the majority of Americans has been extended to May 17, 2021. For more information, see the winter storm tax filing extension section above.

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Is the tax filing deadline extended for Louisiana residents?

Due to the February 2021 winter storms, the deadline for residents of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma to file individual and business tax returns and make tax payments has been extended to June 15, 2021.

The tax deadline for the majority of Americans has been extended to May 17, 2021. For more information, see the winter storm tax filing extension section above.

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Is the tax filing deadline extended for Oklahoma residents?

Due to the February 2021 winter storms, the deadline for residents of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma to file individual and business tax returns and make tax payments has been extended to June 15, 2021.

The tax deadline for the majority of Americans has been extended to May 17, 2021. For more information, see the winter tax filing extension section above.

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Will COVID-19 delay 2021 tax refunds?

It’s possible COVID-19 may delay some federal tax refunds. The IRS is noting that the coronavirus epidemic is causing longer processing times for mailed documents, including paper tax returns and tax return-related correspondence.

If taxpayers file their federal tax return by mail, it may take a more extended period of time for their tax return to be processed. However, once the IRS processes their income tax return, they should send out the taxpayers’ tax refund within the estimated three-week period.

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How should I request to receive my tax refund?

When you request your tax refund, the IRS gives you a few options of how to receive it:

  • Paper check (mailed to your home)
  • Direct deposit to your bank
  • Deposit into U.S. Savings Bonds
  • Apply refund towards any future tax owed

Direct deposit is the quickest and safest way to receive your tax refund, and direct deposit is the method encouraged by the IRS. You can receive your refund via an ACH bank transaction sometimes within a couple days. On the other hand, paper checks take a much longer period to be processed and travel through the mail, not to mention the amount of time it may take your bank to clear the check.

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How can I check the status of my tax refund?

To check the status of your tax refund, the IRS has provided a free Where’s My Refund? tool on the IRS website where. You will need to enter your Social Security number or ITIN, filing status, and refund amount. If you entered the information correctly, the tool should take you to a page showing the status of your tax refund. If it shows an error, you may be prompted to verify your information and to try again. If the information you entered was correct, it will ask you to enter the date you filed your taxes and whether you filed electronically or by mail.

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Why haven't I received my tax refund?

If you haven't received your tax refund after 21 days, your tax refund may have been delayed or there may be a problem with your tax return.

Your tax return may need to be reviewed if any information on your return was incorrect or incomplete. If the IRS needs additional information in order to process your return, the IRS should send you instructions through the mail.

Your tax refund may have been delayed even if there were no problems with your tax return. For example, if you claimed an Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) or Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), your tax refund could be delayed up to three weeks. Also note that if your tax return was submitted by mail, you may not receive your tax refund for six weeks if you chose to receive your refund by paper check.

If you haven't received your tax refund, you should use the online Where's My Refund tool to check the status of your tax return. See the section above about tracking your tax refund for more information.

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Tax CPE Courses from WebCE

WebCE wants tax professionals and taxpayers to have the most up-to-date information during tax season. Tax professionals are encouraged to order tax continuing professional education (CPE) courses so you’ll be completely prepared for the 2021 tax season and able to help your clients to the best of your ability.

Tax CPE Course Catalog