Tax refund schedule for 2017: When will the IRS pay me my refund?

Tax season hasn't even started yet, but millions of taxpayers are already eagerly anticipating hoped-for refund checks from the Internal Revenue Service. Yet it can be hard to guess when those refunds will actually show up in your mailbox or bank account.

Although there's no hard-and-fast schedule that the IRS follows in getting people their refunds back, the tax agency does provide some typical time frames that it tries to follow in getting returns processed and refunds sent out. Below, we'll provide some simple guidelines you can use to estimate when your tax refund might come.

RELATED: The craziest things we've all said while filing our taxes:

11 PHOTOS
10 things we've all said while filing our taxes
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10 things we've all said while filing our taxes

"It's only January, I have plenty of time!"
You're relaxed, you're casual, what even are taxes anyway? You don't care! It's so far away that filing taxes isn't even remotely on your radar, to be honest.

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"The imminent act of filing is upon me and I literally have nothing ready..."
Tax season is now approaching and that creeping anxiety about getting everything done on time is starting to set in. It's essentially biting at your heels and you know you have to get moving.

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No words. Just emotional paralysis.
You're screwed. You need to start doing your paperwork but you physically do not know where to even begin. It's time. It's happening.

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"I HAVE A MILLION THINGS I NEED TO DO, WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PAPERS AND QUESTIONS, SOMEBODY HELP ME!"
That anxiety you felt creeping in earlier? Now it's full-fledged onset. This stage is often accompanied by screaming out loud, pulling hair, crying, etc.

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"Wait, did I get all of my papers in? Did I check that one box correctly? Does it look like I'm trying to evade some of these taxes? What if I go to jail? Can I go to jail for that? WHO WILL FEED MY DOG WHEN I AM IN JAIL?!"

It's like handing in an exam in school and wishing you could grab it back and double check your answers one more time.

Who was that celebrity you heard about that went to jail for tax evasion? Because now you're convinced that's totally going to be you.

Spoiler alert: as long as you did everything to the best of your knowledge and ability, you probably won't go to jail. And even if you do, you'll find someone to walk your dog.

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"I got this, I'm almost done, a few more papers and I'm in the clear. I just have to pound through the rest of it. Go me!"

"Go you" is right! Now you're on cruise control and you're on track to get everything done well and on time. You're unstoppable in the delight of the world that is tax filing.

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"Thank god that's over with, now I can relax! What to do with all this stress-free free time!"
Finally, relief. Your papers are filed and sent out into the universe. It's off your back at last. Now on to more important things, like Netflix.

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"When is my return coming? Is this going to be my life for the rest of my life? Yep, it is. So about that return..."
Now, you wait. You want that money. And the inevitable truth that your life will now be a neverending cycle of filing taxes and waiting for your return.

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"SCORE my return was so much better than I expected! I'm buying a new dress. Or five. Probably five, why not?"
You're on a total life-high now. The possibilities of what you can spend your return on seem endless and even if you don't, having a nice bonus hunk of cash in your pocket feels pretty good. It made all of that stress completely worth it.

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"Honestly filing wasn't even that bad this year. And now I don't have to think about it anymore. Well at least not for another year. But no use in worrying about that now!"
Alas, acceptance. You know you'll fall victim to the vicious cycle again when next year rolls around. But truthfully, you wouldn't have it any other way. Okay, you obviously would. But you'll never change your procrastinating ways!

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How the IRS tries to get refunds to you

The IRS has said in past years that it gets nine out of 10 refunds back to taxpayers in less than 21 days, and in its most recent message to taxpayers, the service repeated its commitment to that goal. However, there are some new rules that apply to many taxpayers that could result in further potential delays for the earliest filers.

Specifically, new laws require the IRS to withhold any refunds on returns that include claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit until at least Feb. 15. From there, the IRS expects to release those refund amounts, but it cautions taxpayers that it could take until the week of Feb. 27 for those refund amounts to get directly deposited to your bank account. The service cites banking and financial systems needing time to handle direct deposits.

Nevertheless, taking these restrictions into account, there are still some things you can do if you want to expedite your refund to the maximum extent possible. First, filing your return electronically is the fastest way to get it into the processing system and often results in fewer errors than paper returns. Also, direct deposit gets money back to you much more quickly than getting a paper refund check mailed to you.

In order to get specific information on your refund once you've filed your return, the IRS has an online tool called Where's My Refund that you can use. There, you can see how much the IRS likes electronic filing, because you're allowed to use the tool as little as 24 hours after you file electronically, but have to wait four weeks after mailing a paper return before you can expect refund information.

A tax refund schedule you can use

It used to be that the IRS provided a firm schedule you could use to predict when you'd get a refund. That has gone away, but based on reasonable projections of turnaround time, you can estimate when you're likely to get a refund.

In particular, the table below has several assumptions. First, it assumes the IRS will take 10 days to issue a refund if you e-file your return. Next, it makes the assumption that paper returns will take four weeks to get to the IRS and get processed. And finally, it sets a 10-day expectation for the amount of time it takes a refund check to get to you by mail.

Based on those assumptions, here's an anticipated 2017 tax refund schedule.

Date You Filed

Refund Date If E-File + Direct Deposit

Refund Date If E-File + Mailed Refund

Refund Date If Paper-File + Direct Deposit

Refund Date If Paper-File + Mailed Refund

Jan. 23

Feb. 2*

Feb. 12*

March 2

March 13

Feb. 1

Feb. 13*

Feb. 23*

March 10

March 20

Feb. 15

Feb. 27*

March 6

March 24

April 3

March 1

March 13

March 21

April 10

April 18

March 15

March 27

April 4

April 24

May 2

April 1

April 11

April 21

May 9

May 19

April 18

April 28

May 8

May 26

June 5

Table by author based on assumptions. *Returns that claim Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit must be held until Feb. 15, and IRS anticipates refunds won't be direct-deposited until the week of Feb. 27.

Again, the IRS won't necessarily follow this schedule, and the Where's My Refund tool is the best source for definitive information on your return as soon as it's available. Moreover, in some cases, the IRS might well get a refund back to you more quickly than the table suggests.

One last warning

Finally, note that the IRS is very clear that you shouldn't plan your finances in anticipation of having your refund hit your bank account on any specific date. No tax schedule that you'll see from any source can claim a guarantee of a date on which you'll get your refund. Estimates like the ones above can be useful for your planning, but make sure you leave yourself some wiggle room in case your luck this tax season turns out to be bad.

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