Top 5 tax refund myths debunked

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Every tax season, there’s a lot of anxiety surrounding tax refunds. Everyone wants to get their money as soon as possible and we’re all antsy until that direct deposit hits our accounts or the check arrives in the mail.

Social media doesn’t help out our generally nervous state this time of year. Whether intentional or not, average taxpayers like you and me have the ability to spread rumors, innuendos and outright lies at the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger.

So to help alleviate the anxiety of tax season, we’re giving you the real deal straight from the IRS!

RELATED: Key 2018 tax dates to know

Debunking 5 popular myths about tax refunds

Myth 1: All refunds will be delayed this year

This one circulates each and every year and it’s untrue for most of us.

Most refunds are sent out less than 21 calendar days after a tax return is received by the IRS. That’s what the IRS says is a normal timeframe for turnaround of a return.

RELATED: Here’s your 2018 estimated tax refund schedule

There are myriad reasons why any given tax return may be held up longer than 21 days. Some reasons are very specific to individual tax credits you claim, as described in Myth 4 below. Others have to do with increased security checks the IRS has in place to combat tax return identity fraud.

Those security checks, by the way, are working. The number of false returns filed in 2016 was 787,000 thanks to increased vigilance on the part of the IRS. That’s down from 1.2 million in 2015!

Myth 2: I can sleuth out my exact refund date by calling the IRS or my accountant

Wrong. You’ll likely just spend a lot of time on hold if you make either call.

The IRS says the best way to determine the status of your refund is to use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool or to download the IRS2Go mobile app.

Refund status is updated once a day, typically during the overnight hours. So there’s no need to repeatedly keep logging on to check!

Myth 3: Ordering a tax transcript gets me a refund date on the down-low

The purpose of a tax transcript is to “validate past income and tax filing status for mortgage, student and small business loan applications [or] to help with tax preparation.”

Tax transcripts don’t always show the amount or the anticipated date of a refund.

If that’s not enough to deter you from trying this, need we remind you of the recent “Get Transcript” hack?

Myth 4: Delayed refunds — plus those claiming EITC and/or ACTC — will be delivered on February 15

Tax refunds likely to take longer than 21 days are those involving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).

If you claim either credit, there’s a law on the books that requires the IRS to hold the entire refund until mid-February.

Assuming there’s no other holdup with your return, the IRS expects those refunds to be made during the week of February 27.

That lag time allows for President’s Day (February 19), a federal holiday during which no business is transacted.

Myth 5: “Where’s My Refund” must be wrong because there’s no deposit date yet

No, the system is not broken!

If you claimed the EITC or ACTC tax credits as described above, the IRS says you shouldn’t expect to see your projected refund date show up on the “Where’s My Refund?” tool until a few days after February 15.

But as explained above, don’t expect the refund money to arrive until the week of February 27 at the earliest — assuming that you opted for direct deposit and there are no holdups with your return.

That extra processing time is needed for banking and financial systems to handle the deposits. Plus, President’s Day throws a monkey wrench into things with that additional non-business day when no payments can be processed.

RELATED: New IRS tax withholding tables mean your paycheck might be getting a little bigger soon

How to get your financial life together

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring unique savings tips to men and women like him who must face life without their spouses. He can be reached at [email protected]
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