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By Martha C. White
February 13, 2018
Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s one of the most common questions taxpayers have, and understandably so: Where’s my refund? With the average refund now amounting to a little over $3,100, according to the I.R.S., it’s no wonder people can get a little impatient waiting for that money.

When you decide how to do taxes — either going through a tax-prep service provider like TurboTax or TaxAct, or via the I.R.S.’s taxpayer portal — it’s important to know that the time for processing refunds won’t be different. Even so, the method you use to actually file does matter — a lot — for those hoping to get their refunds as quickly as possible.

“E-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get your federal tax refund,” said Lisa Greene-Lewis, tax expert for TurboTax. Greene-Lewis advised taxpayers to file taxes online and select to receive their refund via direct deposit.

The IRS processes 90% of these returns and issues refunds within three weeks. By comparison, mailing in a paper return can mean a six- to eight-week wait for your refund to be processed and delivered.

Are you still wondering, when will I get my tax refund in 2018? Well, the I.R.S. began accepting returns Americans file for 2017 taxes on January 29 this year. If you’re one of the taxpayers who filed right away, you could get your refund as early as a week or so from now.

Greene-Lewis added that another reason why e-file is preferable is that you have to wait four weeks before you can check the status of a return sent in via snail mail. Digital tools, on the other hand, let you stay much more up to date. (You can check up on it as soon as one day after filing.)

“The fastest option to track your refund is through the I.R.S. ‘Where’s My Refund?’ site,” Greene-Lewis said. “The ‘Where’s My Refund?’ tool will deliver personalized refund information based on the processing of your tax return.”

Another option is the IRS2Go mobile app. It can clue you in on the refund date once your return has been processed and approved.

While these rules of thumb are helpful, keep in mind that they are just estimates. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes, and any tax refund schedule for 2018 could be thrown out of whack if there is a complication with your return.

In addition, the I.R.S. advised that if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, you might have to wait a bit longer. The agency said it expects both its online and app-based refund tools to be updated February 17 for what it calls the “vast majority of early filers” claiming one of these credits.

“The IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or debit cards starting February 27, 2018, if these taxpayers chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return,” the agency said on its site.

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Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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