Tax refund delays in 2012 may affect some, but the IRS says most glitches have been fixed. When can most Americans who filed income taxes expect refunds?
About 80 percent of U.S. citizens who file their taxes can expect to get money back from the federal government. And since well over 200 million people file each year, that means the IRS has a lot of individual payments to dole out. The timing of your tax refund in 2012 depends largely on when, and how, you filed.
The IRS notes that the fastest refunds will go to those who both e-filed and supplied bank information for a direct deposit. Following technology improvements, the IRS will issue refunds to more taxpayers in as few as 10 days this year for those who e-file and select direct deposit, according to the IRS website. Overall, the IRS issues the vast majority (more than 9 out of 10) of all refunds -- whether filed electronically or on paper -- in 21 days or less. Although refund speed will generally increase overall, the IRS emphasizes these are 'best-case scenarios,' where tax returns are filed accurately and no corrections or review are required.
If you e-filed -- as did more than two thirds of the American population -- this handy chart from the authorized IRS e-file provider gives a thorough breakdown of when to expect refunds, based on your precise filing date. Those procrastinators who submitted their forms electronically on April 17, for instance, can expect a direct deposit around April 25 if they supplied the necessary bank information. Otherwise, a paper check should be mailed from the IRS around April 27.
If you submitted your return physically via the mail and are expecting a refund, you may have to wait a full six weeks beyond the forms' confirmed receipt at the IRS.
If your return is taking longer than it should, it may be due to an error on your forms. Common errors include forgetting to include a signature, writing down the wrong bank account numbers for direct deposit, mathematical mistakes, or even incorrect social security numbers.
Of course, not all delays are the taxpayer's fault. This year, many early filers were incensed by long delays resulting from recent changes to the e-file screening system. In an effort to clamp down on identity theft, the IRS this year strengthened its anti-fraud system. Their technology is now more sensitive to suspicious returns, which are referred to officials for investigation. But many authentic filers had their returns held up by this process; a significant backlog resulted, causing widespread frustration in February and early March. A useful IRS website feature called 'Where's My Refund,' which allows users to track the status of their return, told many taxpayers that no information was available. Many feared they had been lost in the shuffle.
However, reports of long delays have subsided since February and government officials now claim the technology glitches have been fixed. The IRS still admits that some tax refunds will face additional screening and review before being released, which will add time before the refund is delivered.
You can find out for yourself at the 'Where's My Refund' page here. You can also access the tool on mobile devices using the IRS2Go phone app. Either way, information is made available to you about three days after your return is received by the IRS. Be warned that confirmed receipt can take weeks if you mailed your taxes in.
Fortin is the IBTimes Africa Correspondent based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She joined IBT in February of 2012, and has previously worked as an editor and reporter for...