How to Get Your Tax Refund by Direct Deposit

It's fast and convenient, but mistakes can be made

Woman in bank filling out banking slip on counter
Photo: Bruce Ayres / Getty Images

You can wait at your mailbox for your tax refund to snail-mail its way to your address, but that can be frustrating and painful if you need the money. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service can use electronic direct deposit for some or all of your federal tax refund. Eight out of ten taxpayers elect this option, and it's straightforward.

Key Takeaways

  • You can ask the IRS to directly deposit your tax refund when filing your return.
  • The account can be in your name, in your spouse's name if you're married, or in joint names if you hold the account with your spouse.
  • You can choose up to three accounts if you'd like to split the money among them.

How to Request Direct Deposit

You can request a direct deposit right on your 1040 tax return if you want the money sent to just one account. Indicate your bank's routing transit number, your bank account number, and the type of account—checking or savings—on lines 35b, 35c, and 35d of your Form 1040 for tax return. (The lines of Form 1040 are subject to change each year, so be sure to double-check with the IRS, depending on the tax year.)

You can also use Form 8888 to split your refund among up to three different bank accounts. Form 8888 allows you to use your refund to purchase U.S. Savings bonds or to have the money sent to your Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

The IRS processes most refunds in less than 21 days. Use the Where's My Refund? tool to check on the status of your refund.

Triple-Check Your Bank Account Information

The IRS isn't responsible for any errors you might make when entering your bank account information on your return or Form 8888. The agency can't attempt to cancel the payment and send a second refund to the correct account.

Paper refunds are covered by the Check Forgery Insurance Fund (CFIF), which settles non-receipt claims but does not cover refunds issued via direct deposit.

If You Make a Mistake

The IRS might catch some mistakes, such as an omitted number that makes the account or routing number one digit short. Your return won't pass the validation check in that case, so you'll automatically receive a paper check by mail instead. The check will be mailed to the last address the IRS has on file for you. The same will occur if your bank refuses the deposit for some reason.


Have your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend verify your information if you need to be sure.

You can typically call the IRS at 800-829-1040 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to stop the direct deposit if you catch an error before it has processed your refund deposit.

If Your Refund Goes to the Wrong Bank Account

Contact the bank where your refund was deposited if the routing number you indicated on your return was incorrect. You can identify the bank by looking up the routing number you inadvertently entered on the IRS website.

Reach out to the ACH manager at that bank to see whether you can persuade them to send the refund check back to the IRS, then call the IRS to alert it that the deposit will be coming back. Taxpayers in that position might also want to consult with an attorney to review their options.

Follow up by filing Form 3911, the Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund, if the bank doesn't respond after two weeks.

If Your Tax Preparer Alters Your Bank Info

The Taxpayer Advocate Service, a unit of the IRS, has indicated that some less-than-reputable tax preparers will sometimes alter direct deposit bank information to divert funds to their own accounts. That is considered fraud, and you should contact an attorney to review your options for legal action if it happens to you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you change direct deposit information with the IRS?

If you've already filed your return and you need to change your direct deposit information, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. If you want to use a different account than you did the previous tax year, input the new information on your Form 1040.

How do you contact the IRS?

The primary IRS contact number for individuals is 800-829-1040. Businesses should call 800-829-4933, and non-profits should call 877-829-5500. For TTY/TTD, call 800-829-4059. If you prefer in-person assistance, contact your local IRS office.

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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Get Your Refund Faster: Tell IRS to Direct Deposit your Refund to One, Two, or Three Accounts."

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "2021 Form 1040."

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Form 8888 Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases)."

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Refund Inquiries 18."

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Refund Inquiries."

  6. Taxpayer Advocate Service. "Tax Return Preparer Fraud."

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "Let Us Help You."

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