If every cloud has a silver lining, the silver lining for the onerous task of tax-return preparation is the tax refund that often follows it. Once you send your return to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you're probably itching to get your payment. Here's a look at the 2017 tax refund schedule, and when you can expect your money.

First off, if you're a longtime follower of the IRS and its practices, you probably have a hazy memory of a tax refund schedule that it would publish each year. Well, you might want to sit down, because I have some bad news for you: It has been discontinued. You're not totally out of luck, though. We have enough information with which to make some educated guesses.

Yellow road sign that says tax refund ahead

Image source: Getty Images.

2017 tax refund schedule -- what you need to know

The IRS wants to get your money to you as quickly as it can. It aims to issue most refunds to taxpayers within 21 days -- if you filed your return electronically. It also offers a handy service, aptly called "Where's My Refund?," that can help pinpoint exactly when you can expect to receive your money. (There's also an IRS2Go mobile app.)

If you mailed in your return, your refund will arrive later. How much later? Well, the IRS encourages you to not even look up when to expect it until a month after it receives it. 

There are some other factors that can delay your refund, too. For example, if you're claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, the IRS will not start releasing your refund until Feb. 15. It cautions that, due to processing issues, you may not receive your funds until about Feb. 27 -- and that's assuming that you filed electronically, you set up direct deposit for your refund, and your return didn't experience any processing delays along the way. This inconvenience is because the IRS is trying to thwart identity theft and fraud that has resulted in billions of dollars of fraudulently claimed credits.

Your refund can also get delayed if your tax return was incomplete, contained errors, or was suspected of being involved in identity theft or fraud. If there are liens against you, you owe back taxes, or you face refund offsets (perhaps because you owe money for child support, outstanding student loans, or state income taxes), you can also expect delays -- not to mention a reduced or even wiped-out refund.

An estimated 2017 tax refund schedule

Given all of the above, when can you expect your refund? Well, as there is no official schedule any more, various tax enthusiasts online have created their own schedules, based on assumptions and estimates. Below is one of them.

It's slightly conservative, assuming that:

  • e-filed returns with direct deposit will receive refunds within two weeks
  • e-filed returns with mailed refunds will receive refunds within three weeks
  • paper-filed returns with direct deposit will receive refunds within four weeks
  • paper-filed returns with mailed refunds will receive refunds within five weeks

It's not guaranteed in any way, but it can give you a general idea of when you might start standing by your mailbox, tapping your toe, or when you might start peeking into your bank account. (For a more exact estimate, use the IRS's Where's My Refund tool or its IRS2Go app.)

Date IRS Receives Your Return

Refund Date If e-Filed With Direct Deposit

Refund Date If e-Filed With Refund Mailed

Refund Date If Paper Filed With Direct Deposit

Refund Date If Paper Filed With Refund Mailed

January 23

February 6

February 13

February 20

February 27

January 30

February 13

February 20

February 27

March 6

February 6

February 20

February 27

March 6

March 13

February 13

February 27

March 6

March 13

March 20

February 20

March 6

March 13

March 20

March 27

February 27

March 13

March 20

March 27

April 3

March 6

March 20

March 27

April 3

April 10

March 13

March 27

April 3

April 10

April 18

March 20

April 3

April 10

April 18

April 24

March 27

April 10

April 18

April 24

May 1

April 3

April 18

April 24

May 1

May 8

April 10

April 24

May 1

May 8

May 15

April 18

May 1

May 8

May 15

May 22

Table by author.

Remember that if you're claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, your refund won't be released until February 15, with funds likely not arriving until February 27.

The bottom line is that, for the fasted tax refund, you'll want to e-file your return and use direct deposit for your refund. Making sure your return is complete and error free will also help. Remember that the deadline for filing your tax return this year is April 18.

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