• The fastest way to get your tax refund is the same as it was before the pandemic: file electronically and request direct deposit.
  • Many Americans have waited to file taxes since the federal tax deadline moved to July, adding to a backlog of work at the IRS.
  • To comply with social-distancing measures, the IRS had to close offices and processing centers in March, leading to some delays in the tax refund schedule.
  • Around 88.2 million refunds have gone out so far this tax season, compared to 102.5 million by this time last year.
  • Check out Business Insider's picks for the best tax software

This year the Treasury Department delayed the federal tax deadline by three months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not only did social-distancing measures make it more difficult for taxpayers to get in-person help preparing their returns, the IRS was forced to close offices around the country, operate with limited staff and resources, and perform only " mission-critical functions " for the past two months. During this time the agency was also tasked with delivering about 150 million stimulus checks to Americans.

On June 1, thousands of IRS employees are expected to return to offices to resume jobs that can't be done from home, Bloomberg Tax reported . They'll start on a backlog of work, including processing tax returns and paying out refunds.

Every year, the IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically. About 90% of taxpayers do, but for those who filed a paper return this year, the wait for a refund could stretch even longer, the Washington Post reported . It's unclear when the IRS will resume processing paper returns.

E-filing and choosing direct deposit is the fastest way to get your refund

Federal tax returns and payments are now due on July 15, and many states have also moved to a new summer deadline . Data from the IRS shows that at least 21 million Americans took advantage of the automatic tax deadline extension , likely adding to the agency's backlog of work.

By April 19 last year the week taxes were due the IRS had received just over 137.2 million individual income tax returns. This year, about 116 million tax returns were filed by Tax Day. But that figure includes simple returns from Americans with no tax liability who used the nonfilers tool to submit income and bank information.

Despite the delays, e-filing your return and opting for direct deposit is still the quickest way to get your refund. Most taxpayers who use this method get their refunds within 21 days of filing in normal times. It's also much safer than getting a paper check in the mail.

You can check the status of your refund using the IRS's refund-tracking service within 24 hours of filing a tax return online. The IRS updates its system daily, usually overnight.

To check your refund status, you'll need three things:

  • Your Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number
  • Your filing status
  • The exact refund amount

Around 88.2 million refunds have gone out to taxpayers as of May 15. By the same time last year, about 102.5 million had been sent.

The current average refund is $2,778 a hefty windfall worth more than twice the maximum individual stimulus payment that was meant to help Americans make ends meet during the coronavirus shutdowns.

NOW WATCH: Tax Day is now July 15 this is what it's like to do your own taxes for the very first time

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