Here's When To Expect Your 2017 Tax Return

by Eliza Castile

So you finally did it. You scrambled through your desk drawer for all the W-2s you shoved in the back three months ago, started the whole miserable process of doing your taxes, went back to the desk drawer to ferret out any missing documents, and at long last, submitted everything to the IRS. Now, all that's left is twiddling your thumbs and wondering why you haven't received your 2017 tax refund yet. After all, this is the good old U.S. of A. — when we want something, we want it now. Or at least within five business days.

Unfortunately, government bureaucracy isn't known for speediness, and there are a few other factors affecting the speed of your return. First of all, let's establish how long you should reasonably expect to wait: On its website, the IRS states that it issues 9 out of 10 refunds in 21 calendar days or less, so don't start getting antsy until the three-week mark. The agency also notes that you'll get your refund faster if you e-file and request direct deposit. If you use snail mail, you'll have to add on the time it takes to physically transport your tax forms to the IRS, and once they've issued a refund, you'll have to wait for them to mail your paper check. To give you an idea of how long that can take, you can't start checking the status of your return online until four weeks after you've filed your paper return. Who's got time for that?

Even if you've e-filed and asked for direct deposit, though, some tax refunds can take longer to review. For example, if you filed a form 1040NR, the IRS states that you should allow for up to six months after the form was due to receive your refund. If you filed incorrectly or sent in incomplete forms, that can also influence how long your refund will take. (If the IRS needs more information, they'll contact you by mail.) Then there's the time it takes for your bank to process the refund, which varies from bank to bank.

Basically, if you haven't received your tax return, your taxes might have required additional review, and you should also keep your bank's processing time in mind.

The good news is that you don't actually have to sit by your mailbox wondering when your tax return will come home. You can keep track of all this yourself with Where's My Refund, which lets you check the status of your refund. All you need is your social security number or ITIN, filing status, and the exact amount of your refund (so I hope you wrote it down somewhere). Once your money has been processed, the tool gives you an exact date to expect your refund.

That leaves just one final explanation for not receiving your refund yet: If you still haven't filed your taxes, you're not getting any money until you do. This year, you have until Apr. 18 to stop procrastinating. Good luck!