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Where The Heck Is My Refund?

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.


File Electronically

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:

  • You can file Form IT:489 with the Department by mail, and will receive a response by mail. Frankly, you'll probably have your refund before you get the response, but if you want to try this, the form is available on the Department's web site.
  • You can call the DOR's Voice Refund Inquiry System (VRIS) at 1-800-558-3912. Have a copy of the return handy when you make this call, because you'll need to key in some data from the return. You'll get a typical set of messages to "Press 1 for Form 40", etc., and then you'll hear a voice message with the status of your return. Don't panic if you hear that the Department hasn't received your return. It is very easy to enter one of the responses incorrectly, so just start over and try again.
  • Or, you can go to the Where's My Refund? link on ADOR's web site. This link takes you to the "My Alabama Taxes" (MAT) site. If you are a first-time user of MAT, you'll need to create a username and password to be admitted. Have a copy of your return handy as you access this inquiry also. You'll need to provide your Social Security Number, the tax form you used, your filing status, and the amount of your Alabama refund.

This page last updated 2/9/13

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