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Refund Returns

When taxpayers are entitled to refunds, Authorized IRS e-file Providers (Providers) should inform them that they have several options. An individual income tax refund may be applied to next year’s estimated tax; received as a Direct Deposit or paper check; or be split so that a portion is applied to next year’s estimated tax and the rest received as a Direct Deposit or paper check.

Providers must not direct the payment (or accept payment) of any monies issued to a taxpayer client by the government in respect of a Federal tax liability to the Provider or any firm or entity with which the Provider is associated. The IRS may sanction Providers and individuals who direct or accept such payment.

Circular 230 sets forth that endorsing or otherwise negotiating any check (including directing or accepting payment by any means, electronic or otherwise, into an account owned or controlled by the Provider or any firm or other entity with which the practitioner is associated) is disreputable conduct.

Direct Deposit of Refunds

Taxpayers often elect the Direct Deposit option because it is the fastest way of receiving refunds. Providers must accept any Direct Deposit election to qualified accounts in the taxpayer’s name at any eligible financial institution designated by the taxpayer. Qualified accounts include savings, checking, share draft or consumer asset accounts (for example, IRA or money market accounts). Taxpayers should not request a deposit of their refund to an account that is not in their own name (such as their tax preparer’s own account). The taxpayer may not designate refunds for Direct Deposit to credit card accounts. Qualified accounts are accounts held by financial institutions within the United States and established primarily for personal, family or household purposes. Qualifying institutions may be national banks, state banks (including the District of Columbia and political sub-divisions of the 50 states), savings and loan associations, mutual savings banks and credit unions.

By completing Form 8888, Direct Deposit of Refund to More Than One Account, the taxpayer may split refunds between up to three qualified accounts. A qualified account can be a checking, savings or other account such as an individual retirement arrangement (IRA), health savings account (HSA), Archer MSA, Coverdell education savings account (ESA) or TreasuryDirect online account. The taxpayer may also buy up to $5,000 in U. S. Series I Bonds. For example, a taxpayer expecting a refund of $400 may choose to deposit $150 into a checking account, $150 into a savings account, and $100 into an IRA account. Taxpayers may choose the refund splitting option regardless of which Form 1040 series tax form they file.

Providers should caution taxpayers that some financial institutions do not permit the deposit of joint individual income tax refunds into individual accounts or into check or share draft accounts that are "payable through" another institution. Taxpayers should verify their financial institution's Direct Deposit policy before they elect the Direct Deposit option. The IRS is not responsible if the financial institution refuses Direct Deposit for this reason. 

Taxpayers who choose Direct Deposit must provide Providers with account numbers and routing transit numbers for qualified accounts. The annual tax packages show how to find and identify these numbers. The taxpayer can best obtain this information from official financial institution records, account cards, checks or share drafts that contain the taxpayer’s name and address. The sole exception involves accounts specifically created to receive refunds that repay  refund products offered by financial institutions. In those cases Providers may supply the identifying account data.

Providers with repeat customers or clients should check to see if taxpayers have new accounts. Some software stores prior year’s information and reuses it unless it is changed. If account information is not current, taxpayers do not receive Direct Deposit of their refunds.

Providers must advise taxpayers that they cannot rescind a Direct Deposit election and they cannot make changes to routing transit numbers of financial institutions or to their account numbers after the IRS has accepted the return. Providers must not alter the Direct Deposit information in the electronic record after taxpayers have signed the tax return.

Providers must never charge a separate fee for Direct Deposit.

Refunds that are not direct deposited because of institutional refusal, erroneous account or routing transit numbers, closed accounts, bank mergers or any other reason are issued as paper checks, resulting in refund delays of up to ten weeks. While the IRS ordinarily processes a request for Direct Deposit, it reserves the right to issue a paper check and does not guarantee a specific date for deposit of the refund into the taxpayer’s account.

Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS) issues federal income tax refunds. Neither the IRS nor FMS is responsible for the misapplication of a Direct Deposit that results from error, negligence or malfeasance on the part of the taxpayer, the Provider, financial institution or any of their agents.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 01-Apr-2014