The day has arrived: Americans can begin to expect the arrival of their Internal Revenue Service refunds, millions of which the federal tax agency held onto until Wednesday, thanks to a 2015 law intended to curb fraud.
The IRS was no longer publishing its annual calendar of dates on which filers can expect their refunds in the mail or in their checking accounts. However, the agency has a “Where’s My Refund?” tool online, allowing taxpayers to plug in their Social Security numbers, filing status and refund amounts to check on their payments.
The agency was advising taxpayers to check on the status of their refunds 24 hours after filing online, or four weeks after filing via snail mail. The remaining 9 percent of filers—a total of 8.3 million people—who opt for paper were encouraged to switch to the e-file method. For those earning less than $64,000 annually, the IRS has a “Free File” software tool that can guide less-experienced taxpayers through the process. For earners who were compensated more than $64,000, the agency has tools directing filers to authorized brick-and-mortar or commercial software e-file providers.
On top of going the online route, the IRS calls direct deposit “the best and fastest way” to get a refund. It has planned to issue “nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days,” the agency said.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, also known as the PATH Act, required the IRS to hold onto refunds for taxpayers checking off the Earned Income Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit or both on their return forms, starting Jan. 1, 2017. The law sought to allow for “additional time to help prevent revenue lost due to identity theft and refund fraud related to fabricated wages and withholdings.”
As of 2014, the most recent year for which IRS data is available, 28,881,720 Americans claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit, which gives low-income earners and families a financial break, while 20,518,813 claimed the Additional Child Tax Credit, which supplements the basic Child Tax Credit.