Tax Calc
Image source: Philip Ingram via Flickr.

Tax season opened on Jan. 19, and many refund-hungry taxpayers made sure to get their returns in as soon as they possibly could. Yet even after you get your return done, it can be frustrated not to know when to expect your refund to hit your bank account or when your check will come in the mail. The IRS has tried to give itself more wiggle room by avoiding publishing an outright 2016 tax refund schedule for taxpayers, but you can make some estimates based on previous IRS tables and its current guidelines.

What to expect from the IRS
The IRS prides itself on issuing nine out of 10 refunds within less than 21 days. However, it warns that there are several situations in which your tax return could require additional review and therefore take longer to process your refund.

In order to put the odds in your favor, the IRS urges taxpayers to do two things. First, using electronic filing ensures quicker processing and avoids some of the most common errors that delay refunds. Second, choosing to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account saves the time of issuing a paper check and the transit time in the mail.

The IRS acknowledges the value of electronic filing in its Where's My Refund online tool. If you e-file your return, then you can use the tool to check on your refund within 24 hours after you file. However, paper filers have to wait four weeks before they can check.

A tax refund schedule you can use
Again, the IRS makes no promises about exactly when you'll get your refund. But based on some reasonable assumptions, you can put together an approximation of your own 2016 tax refund schedule.

The table below assumes that:

  • The IRS will take 10 days to issue a refund on an electronically filed return.
  • The IRS will take four weeks to receive a mailed return and process it into a form in which it can then move on to a similar process for issuing refunds as on e-filed returns.
  • Refund checks will take 10 days to get to you via mail.

Based on those assumptions, here's when you can expect a refund.

Date You Filed

Refund Date If E-File + Direct Deposit

Refund Date If E-File + Mailed Refund

Refund Date If Paper-File + Direct Deposit

Refund Date If Paper-File + Mailed Refund

Jan. 19

Jan. 29

Feb. 8

Feb. 26

March 7

Feb. 1

Feb. 11

Feb. 21

March 10

March 20

Feb. 15

Feb. 25

March 6

March 24

April 3

March 1

March 11

March 21

April 8

April 18

March 15

March 25

April 4

April 22

May 2

April 1

April 11

April 21

May 9

May 19

April 18

April 28

May 8

May 26

June 5

Bear in mind that this isn't a firm schedule that the IRS will follow, and so it makes sense to check with the Where's My Refund tool as soon as you're allowed to do so to confirm your own personalized refund date. In addition, in some ways, it reflects some worst-case assumptions, and the IRS will get the job done faster in many cases.

The IRS cautions all taxpayers not to rely on getting their refund on any given date. Although there are plenty of tax schedules from other sources that suggest much faster turnaround times -- times that at least in some cases could well turn out to be correct -- using a more conservative estimate like the 2016 tax refund schedule above does could be more realistic in helping you plan your finances around a refund.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.