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About Refunds

Overwithholding and Your W-4

If you find yourself  expecting a large refund, you may be withholding too much on your Form W-4. Remember a refund of taxes means you are getting back money you could have used, deposited or put into your 401(k) for the entire year. It's poor money management if you consistently receive large refunds year after year. 

If your large refund is a result of overwitholding on your W-4, learn more about your W-4 allowance and how it affects your tax refund.

Direct Deposit

Gone are the days when taxpayers eagerly checked their mailboxes for their income tax refunds. Direct deposit lets you receive your tax refund quickly and safely. Direct deposit is available whether you file electronically or with paper forms. You can direct deposit to any United States financial institution, so long as you provide a valid routing number and account number. Some financial institutions do not allow joint refunds to be deposited into individual accounts. Check with your financial institution to ensure that your direct deposit will be accepted.

If you wish to direct deposit into only one account or financial institution, use the appropriate line on your Form 1040.

Split-Refund Program

Beginning in 2007, the IRS began a split-refund program to allow taxpayers to select up to three different accounts or financial institutions to receive the direct deposit. Use Form 8888, Direct Deposit of Refund to More Than One Account, to divide your refund.

For more information, see Frequently Asked Questions about Splitting Federal Income Tax Refunds.

Paper Check

It is still possible to receive your income tax refund by paper check. It is the slowest way to receive your refund, and is less secure than direct deposit.

Checking on Your Refund

The IRS lets you check on your refund two ways:

  • Use the IRS E-file Refund Cycle Chart to determine when direct deposit was sent or paper check was mailed.
  • Track the progress of your refund with the Where's My Refund? tool. You must know your SSN, filing status and the exact amount of the refund.

For more information see IRS Publication 17 – Your Federal Income Tax.