Important News: Some 2017 refunds won’t be released until after Mid-February

January 8, 2018

En Español

Taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on federal tax returns this year need to remember that that, by law, the IRS cannot issue any credit or refund before mid-February. Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with these two credits.

The IRS expects the earliest EITC- and ACTC-related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting Feb. 27, 2018, if direct deposit was used and there are no other issues with the tax return. However, the IRS cautions taxpayers not to rely on getting a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills. Though the IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, some returns require further review.

Individual taxpayers claiming the EITC or ACTC need to know:

  • Section 201 of the PATH Act mandates that, “[n]o credit or refund for an overpayment for a taxable year shall be made to a taxpayer before the 15th day of the second month following the close of such taxable year” if a credit is allowed to the taxpayer for ACTC or EITC. This means if you are claiming the EITC or ACTC, you will not receive your refund until after mid-February, for calendar year 2017 tax returns.

  • This change only affects returns filed before February 15 that claim the EITC or ACTC. So, if you file before February 15, you won’t get your refund until after that date. However, those refunds likely won’t actually arrive in your bank account or on your debit card until February 27, at the earliest – and only if there are no processing issues with the tax return and direct deposit was selected. If you file after February 15, your refund will be issued after your return completes processing, provided you owe no other liability. 

  • Because it is a law, neither the IRS nor the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) can release any portion of the refund, even when a financial hardship situation exists.

  • If you are planning to claim either of these credits, you should still file as you normally do. See the TAS Options for Filing a Tax Return page for more information about filing choices. The IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins.

  • Be careful when planning any financial obligations that are based on any specific refund date when claiming these credits. This includes being cautious of loan and preparer fee agreements where repayment is dependent upon the refund. Be especially aware of any stated repayment dates that are earlier than mid-February. You do not want to incur more costs by committing to any repayment schedule that requires a full payment before the refund actually becomes available.

  • For next year, you should consider reviewing the amount of taxes being withheld early in the tax year. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to ensure you are not having too much money withheld from your paycheck. If you do need to make a change, you should complete a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and give the form to your employer. This will help reduce the amount of any potential refund that might be delayed, ensuring that the money is available in your paycheck instead.

The changes above will help the IRS protect you against tax identity theft and refund fraud. This is just one more step being taken to ensure you receive the right amount of credit or refund.

If you normally claim one or both of these credits, you should check IRS.gov or our website for updated information on this change, and any related changes, before claiming these two credits.

For tips on finding out when your refund might be released, see the IRS news release, IRS Answers Common Early Tax Season Refund Questions and Addresses Surrounding Myths, on IRS.gov.