2021 Tax Refund Calendar: When to Expect Your Tax Refund

by Jennifer Smith, CPA, JD, CDEI, and Trevor Antley | Jan 12, 2021
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 easily answer your clients' questions, including:

  • When will I receive my tax refund?
  • How I can track the status of my tax return?
  • How will EITC and ACTC tax credits affect when I receive my refund?
  • Am I eligible for an economic recovery rebate credit?
  • 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.

2021 Federal Tax Refund Calendar

Over 90% of tax refunds are issued in less than 21 days. The IRS has currently not released an official tax refund calendar for the year 2021, but 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).

Return Filed

Direct Deposit Sent

Paper Check Mailed

Feb 12–13, 2021

Feb 26, 2021

Mar 5, 2021

Feb 14–20

Mar 5

Mar 12

Feb 21–27

Mar 12

Mar 19

Feb 28–Mar 6

Mar 19

Apr 26

Mar 7–13

Mar 26

Apr 2

Mar 14–20

Apr 2

Apr 9

Mar 21–27

Apr 91

Apr 161

Mar 28–Apr 3

Apr 161

Apr 231

Apr 4–10

Apr 231

Apr 301

Apr 11–17

Apr 301

May 71

Apr 18–24

May 7

May 14

Apr 25–May 1

May 14

May 21

May 2–8

May 21

May 28

May 9–15

May 28

Jun 4

May 16–22

Jun 4

Jun 11

May 23–29

Jun 11

Jun 18

May 30–Jun 5

Jun 18

Jun 25

Jun 6–12

Jun 25

Jul 2

Jun 13–19

Jul 2

Jul 9

Jun 20–26

Jul 9

Jul 16

Jun 27–Jul 3

Jul 16

Jul 23

Jul 4–Jul 10

Jul 23

Jul 30

Jul 11–17

Jul 30

Aug 6

Jul 18–24

Aug 6

Aug 13

Jul 25–31

Aug 13

Aug 20

1 Note that during the peak of tax filing season (beginning around late March through April 15), it may take slightly longer for the IRS to process tax returns. The vast majority of tax refunds are still expected to be sent within three weeks of the return being processed.

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Tracking Your 2021 Tax Refund

2021 Tax Refund Schedule & Frequently Asked Tax Refund Questions

To help taxpayers see the status of their federal tax return and track their refund, the IRS has a free Where's My Refund? tool available on the IRS website and the IRS’ IRS2Go mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices. Taxpayers should be able to see the status of their tax return within 24 hours after filing their tax return electronically or within four weeks of sending their tax return by 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) cannot receive their federal tax refunds before February 15, regardless of how early the tax return is filed with the IRS.

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

If the taxpayer does not file their tax return early and has EITC or ACTC credits, their tax refund may be delayed 2–3 weeks longer than the normal dates listed in the above chart 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 7–March 13, although the chart gives an expected return date of March 26, their tax refund may not arrive until April 9.

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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 must be reported on federal income tax returns. In January 2021, the IRS will send 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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2021 Tax Refund Calendar & Frequently Asked Tax Return & Tax Refund Questions

2021 Tax Refund Frequently Asked Questions

When does the 2021 tax season begin?

The IRS has announced the 2021 tax season will begin on February 12, 2021. This is later than in past years. In their announcement, the IRS stated the February 12 start date "allows 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."

When can I begin filing my 2021 taxes?

The 2021 tax season begins on February 12, 2021, but you don't have to wait until then to begin filing your taxes. Taxpayers can start filing their tax returns using a trusted tax professional or an IRS Free File partner. These groups are beginning to accept tax returns now, and they will be transmitted to the IRS beginning on February 12. It's recommended you file your taxes electronically rather than through the mail in order to avoid any delays receiving your tax refund.

When can I expect my 2021 tax refund to arrive?

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.

Note that 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.

When is the 2021 tax deadline?

The deadline for filing individual federal income tax returns with the IRS is April 15, 2021 (“Tax Day”).

Can I file an extension if I miss the April 15, 2021 deadline?

Taxpayers who miss the April 15 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”. 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 deadline.

Is the IRS extending the tax return deadline past April 15, 2021?

Last year, as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, the IRS extended the deadline for filing tax returns to July 15, 2020. Unlike last year, the IRS has NOT extended the tax return deadline in 2021. The deadline for filing taxes this year is still April 15, 2021.

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 longer period of time for their tax return to be processed. However, once their income tax return has been processed, their tax refund should be sent within the estimated three week period.

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Tax CPE Courses from WebCE

WebCE wants tax professionals and tax payers 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