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4 Tricks to Get Your Tax Refund Faster

The Motley Fool logo The Motley Fool 1/22/2022 Kailey Hagen

Doing your taxes isn't fun, but many of us are rewarded with a refund when we finish. It can be pretty substantial, too. The average 2020 tax refund was $2,827, and some people got even more. 

If you need money this year, your 2021 tax refund probably can't come fast enough. Here are a few things you can do to get yours quicker so you can put taxes behind you again until 2022.

1. Start gathering your paperwork

You might not get your W-2s or 1099s until the end of the month, but you can start gathering your other paperwork together so you won't have to hunt for it later. Note how much you've contributed to your retirement accounts, and gather receipts for any charitable donations, large medical bills, or other expenses you plan to write off.

Put all this paperwork together in an envelope or folder so you have it ready when you decide to do your taxes. When you receive your tax paperwork from your employer, add this to the folder as well so everything's in one place.

Smiling person using laptop surrounded by paperwork. © Getty Images Smiling person using laptop surrounded by paperwork.

2. File your taxes as soon as possible

Though you technically have until April 18, 2022, to file your 2021 tax return, it's best to file much sooner if you can. After all, you can't get your tax refund until you've submitted your return. 

Putting off your taxes can also have unintended consequences. Identity thieves often spend tax season filing false returns so they can claim other people's refunds. If this happens to you, you'll have a major headache to sort out with the IRS before you see a dime of the money you're owed.

3. File electronically

Submitting a paper tax return is still an option, but it's a much slower process than electronic filing. Many people today use online tax software, which can help you file your taxes online as soon as you're done entering all your information. For some people, filing your federal tax return online is free. 

Video: IRS encourages taxpayers to file early this year (CNBC)


4. Have your refund direct deposited

If you qualify for a tax refund, you may receive it by mail or direct deposit. About 80% of taxpayers choose to receive their refund through direct deposit, according to the IRS, because it's faster.

If you have a bank account, setting up direct deposit is pretty simple. Just select that as your preferred delivery method when you submit your tax return and enter your bank's routing number and your account number. The government will deposit the funds as soon as your return is processed.

Those who don't have a bank account should look into getting one. Or, if you have a prepaid debit card, you may be able to have your refund deposited into this account. Check with the debit card issuer first to make sure this is allowed and to figure out which routing and account number to put on your tax return.

How to know when you'll get your refund

If you follow the four steps above, you should get your refund quickly. But if you want to know exactly where it's at in the process, you can use the IRS's Where's My Refund? tool. All you need is your Social Security number, tax filing status, and exact refund amount.

You'll be able to start tracking your refund's progress about 24 hours after e-filing or about four weeks after filing a paper return. The government usually updates this tool each night. 

In most cases, you'll get your tax refund in less than 21 days after filing your return, but it all depends on your situation. Some tax returns are more complicated than others and take more time to go through. That's why following these tips is crucial if you want to get your money as quickly as possible.


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