90 Days Is The Norm For Paper Returns
In the Instructions for Form 40, the Department of Revenue advises taxpayers who file by mail to wait 90 days after filing before expecting their Alabama refund. So, if an Alabama taxpayer mailed his return in on April 15, he should not expect to receive his refund until about July 15. According to the DOR, it processes about 1.8 million individual returns per year, with more than 1 million of them showing a refund. 50% (about 900,000) of all individual returns come to the Department between April 1 and April 15. It's easy to see how things can get sticky, especially in these days when funding limitations preclude the hiring of temporary personnel to assist in processing returns. Under the Alabama Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the DOR is required to pay interest at the statutory rate on any refunds paid more than 90 days after the due date of the return, or after July 15 for timely filed individual returns.
By far, the most effective strategy for getting your Alabama refund quickly is to file electronically. The DOR Instructions say that "... electronically filed returns are received and processed significantly faster than returns that were mailed in to the Department of Revenue." The experience of my former firm certainly bears this out. They file nearly all of their individual returns electronically, and many of their clients also elect to have their refunds deposited directly into their checking account. They usually have the money in the bank within three weeks of filing. The instructions cite other things you can do to speed up your refund, such as filing early, avoiding bad Social Security numbers, using the peel-off mailing label, etc; but nothing has as much impact on the length of time it takes to get your refund as electronic filing does.
Tracking Your Refund
Just like UPS, the DOR makes provision for taxpayers to inquire about their refund when they don't have it within the 90-day period. There are actually three methods available:
This page last updated 2/9/13
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