When to expect your refund in 2021

All dates are estimates. Couple of lifts first:

This is an estimate of when to expect your refund. It is not exact, as all taxpayers have different returns and situations.

If you file electronically (using an online tax program or preparer), the IRS will notify you of the actual date they “accepted” your return. This is often 1-3 days from the time you actually hit the “file” or “submit” button

In general, the IRS says that returns with refunds are processed and payments issued within 21 days. For paper filers, this can take much longer, however.

Here is your link to the entire piece with detailed dates:

When to Expect 2021 Income Tax Refunds

This is an automatically-generated Wiki post for this new topic. Any member can edit this post and use it as a summary of the topic’s highlights.

Does anyone on this board still get a refund? I always end up owing, and this year, did something accidentally which I may repeat, barring any penalties from the government. I miscalculated one state’s income taxes and had way too little deducted from payroll. Not recognizing the problem until September, I modified the withholding to leave us owing slightly less than a thousand bucks. That is the state’s maximum amount to owe without incurring penalties.

In today’s low interest environment, it is more emotionally satisfying than financial, but I will do it again with both states next year. I’m sure Uncle Sam has already outlawed this practice for federal withholding, but will confirm it whenever I have time.

Does anyone else pay most of their withholding in the last quarter, and if so, any gotchas?

Haven’t run taxes, thought I’d owe $20k or so. Unplanned replacement vehicle might lower things by $7.5k.

We do have some welfare-babies who are Qanon enthusiasts in the other thread who likely get refunds every year.

Sometimes. I might have overestimated my liability to max out Freedom Q4 bonus.

I’m doing something like that this year (not most, but more than a quarter), because I learned last year that even if I don’t owe any taxes in the end, there may still a penalty for underwittholding federal taxes on a W-2 if you don’t spread your estimated payments proportionally.


I know you took this directly from the link, so I’m not trying to give you a hard time. I don’t know how quickly the consumer level products notify filers, but in my experience the past few years preparing 25-30 returns with a commercial level tax prep software, I get notified of acceptance/rejection of a return by the IRS almost immediately.


Please leave hate and politics to political threads.


I agree, somehow political debates even got to my student loan thread. Like FWF I thought this forum is about maximizing personal finances, not the public good/taxpayers etc? Everything has become political, even after the election is over (for some!)

Back to topic, when are paper returns being processed these days? I have one pending from 10/14.
The IRS website doesn’t even say received (and USPS took 10 days to get it to them, probably since Fresno 93888 zip POB doesn’t even auto populate on USPS data base)


I wish IRS would allow PY electronic returns, good for them too. Wonder why not?

Taxpayers who mail a paper version of their income tax return can expect at least a 3-4 week delay at the front-end of the process, as the return has to be manually entered into the IRS system before it can be processed.

and if they are “manually entered” do they allow fax returns?

I might be in that situation this year. How high is this under withholding penalty? Isn’t it only if you do it multiple years in a row? Also what’s the best CC route Pay Your Taxes by Debit or Credit Card or Digital Wallet | Internal Revenue Service. I’m hoping one of these uses discover debit?

or like @Bend3r I should just buy another EV and get the $7.5K tax credit. I also have EV charger but that’s only 30%/ $1500


There’s a sheet that allows you to calculate the penalty in multiple different ways and you can pay whatever the lowest is. I didn’t underpay that much, so mine was a few bucks. Not sure about multiple years in a row – I may have underpaid my total liability (not payroll) slightly the year before, so that could have been a trigger.

Best CC route is PPK, but especially so if you have Freedom for Q4 bonus. I don’t want to say much more as they’ve already killed one goose.

I think a single year can trigger the penalty too, though I think you could ask forgiveness if it’s the first time.
Key word to look up is “safe harbor” provisions. If you meet safe harbor then there’s no penalty.

I’ve paid the penalty for a couple years, ended up being ~ten(s) of dollars for me. They assume (unless you provide a better estimate) that the underpayment was spread evenly thoroughout the year. Then they charge a low interest rate, I think it’s <2% currently, as long as you pay it by April 15.

My penalty has always come from some combination of capital gains or stuffing my 401k contributions into the end of the year (with no room for withholding), with insufficient planning.
This year I waited too long and actually can’t max my elective contributions. Probably positioned too conservatively (holding a big chunk of cash for contingencies).

1 Like

thx. Co. forces 401k contributions throughout the year so I didn’t have that problem. I used to max out early in the year, but that cost me a match (even missed out on a true up b/c we got bought out and I had 0 contributions for the new plan )

Generally, the IRS expects you to pay at least 90% of the total you owe for the current tax year — or 100% of the tax shown on last year’s return, whichever is less.

But, you only owe it if you owe more than $1,000.

1 Like

I think the case for making sure that you don’t give the government a free loan by making sure you owe the IRS money is less compelling than it’s ever been this year considering how much one has been getting on the float at the current liquid rates.

Personally, I’ll likely end up pretty close to even this year unless I screwed up. So I could be getting a refund or owe, it’ll likely depend on the size of capital gain distribution from taxable investment accounts which are hard to estimate in advance.


You’re almost better off with a large refund due, and trying to get your refund delayed to the extent they start paying interest on the balance. But I dont know of a reliable way to trigger such a delay…

1 Like

Do they automatically pay when you file extension? Or it was other delays I got interest on this year?

Nevermind, it’s dead.

I filed around October 15 and due to USPS delays it didn’t actually get processed by the IRS until mid November. However, the refund direct deposit came in really quickly, about 15 days later. Unfortunately U had requested $5,000 I Bonds, but the window apparently had already passed so I got all of it back in cash. :frowning_face:
I still expect to make some estimated tax payments in January and/or April from VGC if other means of unloading the cards are foreclosed. They work great for grocery category bonuses. Otherwise, I would rather use those other methods as they are slightly cheaper.


For those looking for an alternative, I’ll advocate the purchase and use of prepaid debit cards at local grocery stores. Many are running $5-$10 off promotions on prepaid MCs which wipe out both the purchase fee, as well as the $2 debit card fee. This also allows you to make a grocery purchase, which for many cards offers a nice category bonus on top of the usual cash back.

I have done this a number of times and it works great. Two limitations - you cannot pay more than twice with the same provider each quarter (e.g. with Official Payments, Pay1040, etc), and at least in OfficialPayments case, Mastercard GCs are highly preferred. There are many data points indicating that Visa GCs do not work for tax payments. As usual, the Doctor has all the details.

Given that most gift cards top out at $500, you’re limited to ($1000 - fees) per quarter, per provider in payments (as $4 will go towards paying the debit fee, at least in Official Payments’ case). However, it’s a nice haul with the right credit card. In this low interest rate environment, you may be better off making one of these tax payments and capturing the credit card rewards even if you are not required to make estimated payments.