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By Mallika Mitra
April 14, 2021
Closeup of a woman filling out an Individual Income Tax Return
Getty Images

You have until May 17 to file your federal income taxes, but waiting until the deadline could mean a delay in getting your hands on money the government owes you.

You know about tax refunds. But you might not know that the IRS is also sending out supplemental stimulus checks to Americans who didn't get the full amount they're eligible for in the last round. Between this and a possible refund, there could be a significant chunk of change on the table for you. With millions of Americans still out of work and many struggling financially to make ends meet, the money is likely a welcome source of help.

So, don't wait to file your taxes just because you can. Here's what you need to know about when you'll get the money you're owed.

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When will I get my supplemental stimulus check?

This may sound like a fourth stimulus check, but that's not the case. The IRS is sending out supplemental payments for Americans who didn't receive the full amount of the third Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) — up to $1,400 per person — included in the American Rescue Plan passed March. In a statement last week, the IRS confirmed that it sent out over 1 million supplemental payments to people whose 2020 tax returns qualified them for additional funds. On Wednesday, the agency announced that another batch of EIPs included more than 700,000 of these "plus-up" payments.

Stimulus payments started going out mid-March, just days after the plan was made into law. The IRS was able to send them quickly by basing them on taxpayers' most recent tax return on file, whether that was 2019 or 2020. That means many people didn't get the full amount they were entitled to. If you lost your job in 2020 and your income dropped, or you had a baby but you haven't yet filed your 2020 return, you may be owed more money than you originally got this spring.

The agency appears to be issuing supplemental payments on a rolling basis as they process tax returns. In other words, the sooner you file, the sooner you get in line for your payment.

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When will I get my tax refund?

Filing your tax returns now, rather than waiting for the mad scramble ahead of May 17, could also shorten your wait time for a tax refund if you're owed one. The closer to the deadline you file, the longer it's likely to take for the IRS to process your return and send your refund, says Kelley Long, CPA and consumer financial education advocate for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. It can take anywhere between a week and up to three to four weeks, she adds. Most refunds will be issued in less than 21 days, according to TurboTax. You use the "Where's My Refund" tool from the IRS to track it 24 hours after you file a return electronically.

Something taxpayers don't seem to be aware of is that just because you file your taxes ahead of the May 17 deadline doesn't mean you have to pay any balance due to the government right when you file, Long adds. If you owe Uncle Sam money but need the extra month to get it together, that's fine — but you won't know exactly what you owe (or if you owe at all) until you file.

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