Despite the implementation of extra checks to authenticate identity, the IRS says e-filers can expect a refund in 3 weeks. iStock.com/pkstock

Despite the IRS’ tighter security this year when processing returns, it says e-filers can expect a refund in 3 weeks. iStock.com/pkstock

Tax filing season 2016 opens today. Now comes one of the most frequently asked questions every year: When will I get my refund?

The concern about slow refund issuance has increased in recent tax years as the Internal Revenue Service battles tax identity thieves who file fake returns to obtain fraudulent refunds.

Tighter filing security

This filing season, efforts to stop criminals could mean it will take a little longer to get your 1040 to the IRS.

As part of the Security Summit program involving the IRS and tax software companies, most filing programs now ask more security questions before letting you complete and file your return. This is the protocol regardless of whether you file via tax software on your own computer or use one of the Free File online tax prep options.

Once your return is in the IRS’ hands, things also slow down a bit. The agency is employing more filters to double check that your 1040 is actually from you.

IRS sticking with 3 week turnaround

But despite those pre- and post-filing security measures, the IRS is sticking with its promise to issue most refunds within 21 days of receiving the returns.

You can determine how the IRS meets that promise by checking on the status of your tax return and refund by using the IRS’ Where’s My Refund? online search, or the IRS2Go mobile app. Those options are available within 24 hours if you e-filed or 4 weeks after you mail a paper return.

But don’t be overly anxious to find out where in the system your 1040 is. The IRS says its return database is updated just once a day, usually at night.

So calling multiple times a day about your return’s status won’t get you any new information.

A more responsive IRS

The IRS also says this filing season should be easier, both for it and taxpayers.

The federal budget bill signed into law last December included an additional $290 million for the IRS. Some of that money, says IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, will be used to hire additional staff to answer the agency’s toll-free help phone lines.

That’s welcome news to taxpayers who last year had their calls for help dropped because the IRS did not have enough workers to answer the phones. It also should help shorten call wait times for both Joe and Jane Taxpayer and tax professionals who had their own IRS dedicated phone line problems.

Are you expecting a tax refund this year? Have you already filed your tax return?

While Bankrate hopes the process goes smoothly, we’d love to hear about your filing experiences. Let us know in the comments whether things went well or what went wrong for you in the 2016 filing season.

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