To file paper or electronic? IRS explains which method will get you a faster tax refund

The IRS says it is experiencing COVID-19 processing delays, so how you file your taxes does impact the timing of your refund.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When you go into a grocery store, the question is always "paper or plastic?" When you go to a tax preparer, the question is "paper or electronic?" 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has been looking into that, and says because of the pandemic the difference between the two has never been so stark.

We begin with a common taxpayer question: When will I get my refund?

"My daughter did my taxes this year," says Luz Garcia of Redwood City. "I believe on the last day of January, and so far I haven't got anything."

RELATED: 7 On Your Side, experts to host Tax Chat on March 4 to answer viewer questions

"They only say that I had to keep checking and checking and checking, but nothing at all," Garcia continues.

So, when should she expect to see her check?

This is what the IRS is told 7 On Your Side:

  • If you file a paper return and want a paper check, expect to wait four to six weeks.

  • If you E-file and want a paper check, the IRS says expect to get your check in four weeks.

  • If you E-filed your return and request direct deposit, you should get your refund in twenty-one days.


RELATED: Millions of Americans still haven't received last year's tax refunds. What's the big holdup?

Garcia's check is late according to that guidance, but the IRS does give itself some wiggle room, issuing a statement saying it is having COVID-19 processing delays.

So what is a tax filer to do? IRS spokesperson Raphael Tulino says try to keep everything electronic.

"Paper is our kryptonite," he tells 7 On Your Side, "so you doing a paperless, errorless tax return is really going to make things easier for you the taxpayer, as well as the IRS in terms of administration and processing tax returns this year."

File electronically and you aren't guaranteed a fast refund, but it does give you a fighting chance. As 7 On Your Side previously reported, millions of taxpayers still don't have last year's tax refund even as they file their returns this year. The pandemic has really slowed the agency down.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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