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Here's the Fastest Way to Get Your Tax Refund

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Feb 21, 2016 at 6:24AM

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Technology has made it possible to get your tax return in as little as 10 business days.

Image source: Steven Depolo. 

If the IRS owes you a refund this year, chances are you want it as quickly as possible. Depending on how you file your return, and how you request the refund be paid to you, it can take anywhere from 10 days to six weeks or more to get your money. Although the majority of taxpayers already do it, the fastest combination you can choose is e-filing your tax return and having it directly deposited into your bank account. With that in mind, here's some information and tips that can help you along the way.

Several ways to e-file
Not only is e-filing the fastest way to file, it's also usually the easiest. There are dozens of tax preparation software programs that can walk you through the process and allow you to sign your return electronically.

Additionally, these software programs will do all of the mathematical calculations for you, and they will detect potential errors or red flags that need your attention. According to the IRS, paper tax returns are about 20 times as likely to contain an error as those filed electronically. And, as many taxpayers find out the hard way, simple arithmetic errors can easily lead to an audit.

When it comes to filing electronically, you have a few options:

  • If your income is less than $62,000, even if you're self-employed or a business owner, you can use the IRS's Free File program to use brand-name tax preparation software to file your federal tax return for free. With some of the participating software programs, your state return might be free as well.
  • For incomes above the cutoff, the IRS provides free fillable forms, but these are best for individuals who either have relatively easy returns or who truly know what they're doing. No guidance is provided.
  • Many tax-prep software programs allow simple returns to be e-filed for free, regardless of income.
  • If you have an income above $62,000 and a relatively complicated return, your best bet is probably to pay for thorough tax-preparation software. Or, you can hire a tax-prep service to do yours. It's better to pay someone to do your taxes than to do it yourself and potentially make costly mistakes.

Direct deposit: Quick and easy
When you e-file, the quickest way to get your return is to have it directly deposited into your bank account. More than 85% of taxpayers choose this option, as it's not only fast, but convenient as well.

You can choose to have your refund allocated to as many as three different U.S. bank accounts. Be sure to use the correct account and routing numbers to avoid unnecessary delays, or your return being sent to the wrong place.

How to check on your refund
According to CBS News, if you file electronically and choose direct deposit, you can expect your refund in about 10 business days. If you file electronically and choose to receive a paper check, you're looking at about four weeks, and if you choose a paper return and want a paper check, it could take over six weeks.

Keep in mind that these are just estimates, and after you file your return, the IRS can give you a much better idea of when you can expect your refund. Once your return has been received and processed, you can use the "Where's My Refund" tool that can tell you exactly when you should expect your money.

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