Where’s My Refund?

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Where’s My Refund?


Cognitive Dissonance



Beginning way back when my children grew old enough to work ‘on the books’ and thus earn enough taxable wages to ‘voluntarily’ pay their (Social Security and Federal/State/County-Local income) taxes and ‘voluntarily’ file a Federal Income Tax return (oh sweet puberty) I’ve handled the annual spring rite of documenting their IRS 1040 wage slavery by filing their tax returns for them. This ‘voluntary’ documentation always includes spouses and/or girl-boyfriends….and occasionally even the parents of spouses and/or girl-boyfriends. Please don’t try this at home boys and girls.

Now that the electronic filing option has trickled down from the IRS to nearly all the states and now that the various retail software tax preparation products (such as Tim Geithner’s TurboTax) have worked out most of their bugs and are reasonably reliable, the time I spend discharging my now permanent parental duties is tolerable. Best of all I gain the satisfaction of knowing that it’s all done right…….or at least that I’m the only one screwing up my children in preparation for the return of the (Government) debtors prison. Ah, but the good old days (remember the mid nineteenth Century?) seem to be lurking just around the corner. But I digress.

Several of my children have simple tax returns that encompass traditional W-2’s from established employers who also ‘voluntarily’ withhold my kid’s portion of their ‘voluntarily’ tax offerings. (How kind of them to help.) With little to no investment income, capital gains, real estate or trust income or any other complications, their returns are relatively simple affairs. (Thank you IRS.) One of my kids is married with a child, which means she and her spouse claim the child credit and a slice of the earned income bribe……..err………credit given to low wage earners to entice them back onto the wage slave hamster wheel for one more year. But I digress……again.

My children generally receive tax refunds and I dutifully file as early as possible in order to ensure that they’ll soon have fat wallets stuffed with ‘free money’ that immediately burns a hole in their pockets or purses. Nothing warms a parents cockles quite like getting a text message from their child informing them that s/he just received her/his IRS tax refund, a text sent while shopping for 55” LCD TV’s in Best Buy. (“Thanks Dad, you’re the greatest.”) Unfortunately we begin to lose our children to the PONZI’s consumer frenzy by the time they’re old enough to watch TV, meaning 2 or 3 years of age. BTW I’ve heard real, supposedly intelligent, people [“not my kids” says proud CD] call their tax refund ‘free money’, but I’d rather call it a partial return of our ‘voluntary’ tax donations. But (sadly) I digress once more.

While my small circle of friends and family hardly constitutes a statistically significant sampling of the average American Taxpayer, unless of course I’m the BLS (Bureau of Lies and Statistics) who appear to count the same baker’s dozen-dozen (a baker’s gross just in case you want to know) of wage slaves over and over and over while consistently dropping a few here and there (‘on’ accident I suspect) it seems that I’m observing a frightening trend playing out in real time.

In the interest of high brow economic research I wish to gauge the response of my Zero Hedge readership in order to increase the sample size of my tax refund survey to 25 or 30. That way I can publish an ‘expert’ paper describing the state of the IRS tax refunding efforts and its relationship to the ongoing paper (fiat) chase. I plan to sell it to various economic think tanks and Pulitzer Prize economic fiction writers for several bazillion Bernanke Bucks and retire to a remote island in the Bahamas with Mrs. Cog where they don’t have Internet or phones, but they do have several dozen precious metal dealers and coin shops. But I……umm………never mind.

Simply put, for at least two years running now, and maybe even three (pardon my pun, but an old man and his memory soon part) it seems that those cuddly little wage slaves of mine who are expecting smaller tax refunds (say less than $1,600) get them very quickly, usually within 8-10 calendar days. But the ones who regularly receive refunds above $3,500 have been forced to wait more than 21 days two (three?) years running.

In fact, this year the IRS will make my daughter wait 25 days from the day of the IRS’s acknowledged receipt of her electronic filing. At least that’s the delivery promise the IRS just made on their “Where’s My Refund?” web page. This despite the fact that the IRS claims you should receive your direct deposited e-filed tax refund in 8 to 15 calendar days, with some waiting up to 3 weeks (21 days for the math impaired). Hmmmmm……very interesting.

Now……to be crystal clear this is all supposition on my part. And I’m absolutely certain that if someone asked the IRS spokesperson to comment (not me because I’m already suffering under a life-time red flagged IRS audit alert) s/he would provide a perfectly coherent and reasonable explanation for why the larger refund seems to run late several years running while the smaller refunds are quickly paid. I bet there’s a perfectly innocent explanation for this little quirk and I’m nothing but a silly Chicken Little making a too-big-to-fail mountain out of a wage slave mole hill.

However, considering the humongous budget deficits the US Government is currently running (until of course Baghdad (Bob) Ben Bernanke [of “We’re not printing money” fame] runs out of green electronic ink and fuel for his helicopter) on top of lagging ‘voluntary’ tax collections, I was sort of wondering if the Treasury might actually be pulling a fast one here. After all, if you’re running a bit short this month and only have $1,000 on hand to pay bills amounting to $2,000, I bet you’d gather up the largest pile of small bills you could find that equaled $1,000 and pay them before you paid the one or two larger bills that amounted to the same $1,000.

The rather rational theory for doing so is that you would rather receive one (or two) phone calls from the larger creditors than phone calls from five, six or more smaller creditors. I suspect the IRS/Treasury feels the same way…..particularly when government’s only real purpose now-a-days is to continuously kick the Ponzi can down the road while maintaining the illusion for all the wage slaves that it’s getting (so much) better all the time”.

I find it interesting that my daughter’s refund info suddenly showed up on the ‘Where’s My Refund?’ web site two days after the Treasury sold $35 Billion of Two Year Treasury bonds, one day after they sold $35 Billion of Five Year Treasury bonds and just before they sold $29 Billion in Seven Year Treasury bonds. Those (larger) tax refunds must have been piling up somewhere in a corner stinking up a storm. But of course that’s just a coincidence……….right?

Regardless, I can’t help but smile when I realize that my daughter and son-in-law might just be in on a tiny little slice of that sweet PONZI Treasury action. I only wish I could get in on the fun myself. Where’s My Refund Uncle Sam?

So what say you fellow Hedgers? Have you also noticed a lag in your voluntary tax refund or is all well on Capitol Hill and free money trickles from the gist mill to your too-big-to-fail checking account with no delay? Sound off in the comment section to let me know. And remember, it’s a voluntary tax you pay each and every day and Uncle Sam is very grateful for your donations.

P.S. I can’t wait until the day (coming very soon I’m afraid) when, instead of a cash tax refund, Uncle Sam sends you a custom made-to-order 100 Year U.S. Government Zero Coupon Bond (helpfully denominated in the exact amount of your refund) with a sticky note attached informing you that as a Red Blooded American you should be proud to buy American (Fleecing) Bonds.

Besides “that’s just as good as money Sir, those are I.O.U’s”…..just not negotiable for 100 years because, well, we’re broke at the moment and for the foreseeable future as well.



Cognitive Dissonance

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Simple.Machine's picture

What are these "refunds" you speak of, sir?

Problem Is's picture

"...suddenly showed up on the ‘Where’s My Refund?’ web site two days after the Treasury sold $35 Billion of Two Year Treasury bonds."

Trusting Timmay to tell Bennie to sell enough Treasuries that Jamie (and formerly the Corz) will buy to sell back to Bennie to get your money back...

is a bit disturbing...

Ayn Rand's picture

Very simple solution,  stop giving them a free loan by overwithholding.

Problem fixed.

MrBinkeyWhat's picture


Like you I somehow managed to become the default tax filing guy in my neighborhood. And yes, smaller refunds do get processed faster than bigger ones. The EIC bribe is a nifty way to redistribute benbucks to the likely voters.

Like several responders, I am self employed, and must make "voluntary contributions" quarterly. I do my best to not over pay.


dolly madison's picture

I had a big refund, and it came in 12 days.

espirit's picture

I have a big payment, and it's going to wait until the last minute.

Currency deval and all.

FullFaithAndCretin's picture

Great article, thank you.

The authorities have complicated the tax code to the point where ordinary people can't understand it, and are driven to the point of overpaying rather than suffer the risk of draconian punishment. Tax professionals are driven in thye same direction by the same fears.

My response has been to complicate my affairs to a such level of fiendish obfustication that my tax return would be worthy of a PhD. I have coporate presence in a number of countries with cross-ownership and cross-funding arrangements. I have personal and corporate credit cards that I use to make an indiscriminate mixture of business and personal expenditure. I charge my corporations for the use of my personal assets and capital in other parts of the world and vice versa. I run a family investment club partly through my corporate presence in different geographies and partly througth personal funds: I invest and hold world wide investments in trust for the club and for the corporations and vice versa.

For interviews with those in authorty, I have a special pair of trainers that I last wore while being given drumming lessons in a crowded tin hut in Ghana, West Africa, under conditions of diabolical heat and humidity. They contain a prosperous build up of organic matter, and, I can assure you, you do not want to spend a great deal of time in their company. My dedicated tax trousers have a spectacular hole in the crotch region, a result of judgement error involving an old car battery. I make sure I am in bad need of a bath always present an incoherent and derelict image. In the interest of full transparency I usually helpfully open up a coffin sized cardboard box of till slips, agreements, random invoices made out to or by  people other than me, and arbitrary papers from many years ago by way of ballast.

My tactic is to introduce a new twist into the explanation whenever anyone starts thinking they have got the hang of it. Usually I hint obliquely at the existence of a hitherto undisclosed asset, liability or interested party, before veering off unpredictably in an unrelated conversational direction. Sometimes I break into a different language.

All of this is legal. Somewhere in this byzantine tangle there may or may not be a juicy little tax titbit for the persistent investigator. Not even I can tell with certainty. Come and get it.

Seer's picture

Ah, the playbook of the 1%-ers!

TheObsoleteMan's picture

When the day arrives that the US Treasury sends out L-O-N-G dated maturity bonds in place of a refund check, that will be the day you see people selling them to "investors" for  twenty to thirty cents on the dollar. Firms like JG Wentworth {of: "It's my money and I want it now!" fame} will be running commercials to buy them up like hotcakes. One year of that and you will see a massive tax revolt. Around this time of year I always suggest this: Go to youtube or Google videos and download the film:"Death and Taxes: The Gordon Kahl Story." You'll have to see it to believe it. Many here are too young to remember all that, but I never forgot. He was a true patriot.

skistroni's picture

Lucky Americans! You're complaining about 25 days being... A LOT? 

I am still waiting for my tax refund from incomes of 2009.

Agent P's picture

Just filed my '11 taxes on Monday, so I'll have to get back to you, but 2010 refund was sizeable and came quick...I think eight or nine days.

State of Illinois on the other hand...almost two months to get back less than $400...Illinois, the Greece of America!

dark pools of soros's picture

i have to wait 30 days...  a decent chunk comig back (yes, over $3,500) even though I tried to play it even...

 I had more to write off than I planned 

moroots's picture

In addition to lowering your withholdig to the point that you'll owe on April 15, wage slaves can also take advantage of the law that treats withholding as having been evenly paid in over the year.  Even if 100% of your withholding is paid in on December 31 each year, the IRS treats it as having been paid in 25% in each quarter.  Thus if you have enough in reserve to afford getting a zero net paycheck for a few pay periods, you can basically starve the beast for an entire year before you pay a penny, save payroll taxes.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Very nice. I did not know that. I shall do some research tomorrow morning.

Midas's picture

This most definitely works. I do it every year. I claim 9 exemptions even though I have none and then the last 4 paychecks I specify an extra amount per paycheck be withheld. I end up with some $200.00 paychecks, but I planned on that. I try and get to where I owe under $1,000 come April 15, but I don't worry about it too much. Should you underpay by more than $1,000.00 they may have provisions for charging you interest on the amount. That is how they say it, "Interest may be assessed." Even if you owe interest my man The Ben Bernank will see to it that the rate is low... Enjoyed the article!

AR's picture

Good Morning CD, we miss your missives.  Yes...the Ponzi Scheme we call "the market" continues.  As one of our large colleagues called it back in the summer of 2009, he said "...there is NO MARKET anymore..."  Hang in there and keep a positive mindset (though tough at times we know). 

Regarding your tax comment above, some of our guys claim up to 10 Exemptions throughout the year, which is usually the maximum allowed without having to file an "exemption form" and paperwork asking for the IRS for approval (causing tax officials to scrutinize your request for 10+ exemptions or more, Federal and/or State).  Result?  Throughout the year, much less is withheld each month.  We've done this for decades, and have never had a problem, and allows us to keep about 80% more per month and quarter of the tax refund we would be entitled to if we only claimed 3-4 exemptions throughout the year.

Caveat (a big one):  This scenario works for us.  Talk to your Tax Attorney for individual advice.  Like you, why give Uncle Sam any more of your money all throughout the year, interest free to use. Then, only to be forced to ask him for it back 10-16 months later, and in your daughter's case, have to wait for it 1, 2 maybe even 3-5 months after you file for your refund.  Little loopholes like this are available, one just has to find and utilize them (quietly).

Good luck our good friend.  Be well... 

SilverFocker's picture

LOL.....Filed 2-2, Two days later, state was in the bank.....Fed not so much, I got the check back in a week crap. A lousy 561 benny's, yet they kept over 11k.........I need an adopt a tax kid program........Errr maybe not.

Midas's picture

Do not, repeat, DO NOT, get Jerry Sandusky as a spokesman for adopt-a-kid.

Problem Is's picture

But Jerry would be perfect...

Football coach at a big time (a)moral university whose head coach is famous for ethics...

What could go wrong????

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

".........I need an adopt a tax kid program........"

Sounds like an inspirational moment there for a business start up. Can I be your angel investor? :>)

mark mchugh's picture


I'm aware of a lot of delays this year, regardless of amount.  The IRS has claimed this is because of new security measures, etc.


Here's my take on the delay:

The IRS had gotten so good at processing returns quickly that there was no reason anybody would ever want a refund anticipation loan (RAL).  I don't know if you've ever looked into the terms of those things, but they're nothing short of criminal.  I mean they make loan sharks look like Salvation Army volunteers.

A few years back, RALs were quite the racket, so the IRS is "killing jobs" (and worse yet, killing bank profits) by expediting the process. 

Everbody hates the way HR Block and other big tax prep companies do business.  They price-gouge on the return, try to sell "rapid refund" loans, "peace of mind" insurance etc. etc.  Fast payment from the IRS puts small tax preppers on a level field with the big guys ("Look, if you can wait just ten days for your money, I can do your return for $200 less than Block")   No doubt small time preppers are eating the big boys lunch. 

The delay helps the price-gouging big boys, IMO.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Interesting point of view. Thanks for your thoughts.

I looked in the refund anticipation loan (RAL) offered by a few national tax preparers a few years back when a client asked me about them and I was shocked by the fees and annualized rate of interest charged. But to some poor guy or gal who is desperate for that $2,000 tax refund, to be able to walk into a tax prep place and walk out an hour later with $1,900 in their pocket rather than wait a few weeks for $2,000 feels irresistible. 

blunderdog's picture

It's not even always irrational, despite the bad terms.

MOST people have effectively zero savings.  They don't have the luxury of being able to get a signature loan, or of putting up a big wad of cash for some given expense. 

A friend of mine bought a car at 24.99% back in the early '90s...because that was the only deal he could get that solved his problem quickly enough.

americanspirit's picture

CD - you are truly one of the great creative minds here. It is always a pleasure to read your thoughts. Thank you.

The Navigator's picture

Have to agree - logic is very appealing.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Mom! You promised me you would stay off Zero Hedge. Now please, go back to your online poker and leave me be. :>)

malek's picture

In 2010 (tax year 2009) my federal refund ($2000+) took exactly 24 days to materialize, including snail mail time as I still posted on paper. (For Cali I had to pay a little additional, no refund.)

In 2011 year my even bigger federal refund took exactly 12 days to materialize, filed electronically.

However my 2011 Cali refund took 61 days, even though electronically filed - they claimed some of my bank account information wasn't valid so they HAD TO send me a paper check. On top of that TurboTax hadn't correctly filled in the W-2 information on the Cali form, so I had to phone, discuss, and send a fax to the FTB to get more money back another 25 days later.

This year I am still waiting on one of my brokers to file the effing statements...

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Many of the brokers decided to wait until 02-15-2012 (or even 02-22-2012) to send out the 1099's. In a nut shell many REITs, managed investments and even mutual funds don't always pass on accurate (or even any) info to the brokers until mid to late Feb or even March. This forces the broker to send out new 1099's to the affected clients, pissing off those who had already filed because often this creates the need to amend the filing they'd already submitted.

While it was not the brokers fault, they are the ones who get the phone calls. So they regularly ask for and receive extensions from the IRS and they used nearly all of it this year.

malek's picture

I only hold plain, mostly foreign stocks.
Because of settlement times and the wash sale rule I understand it takes til mid February, but on 2/20 I want to have my printed statement having arrived in the mail.

Last year I had to amend because a Canadian stock declared some of its "dividends" to actually be Return of Capital (i.e. non-dividend distributions)...

Sabibaby's picture

CD: I was just below your observed $3500 amount and received my refund in less than two weeks. Not free money by any means although I file the day I get my W2.... already spent btw (or might as well be...) about a third of my refund went to a nice gun and 1000 rounds of ammo for it and a nice case, cleaning stuff, targets, they really suct me in with all the bells and wistles.... maybe closer to a half the refund.... I'm circulating the money baby and sloshing it all around!!!

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

A good gun and case along with 1000 rounds of ammo is not 'spending' money, it's investing in your future. :)

moondog's picture

Here's an excellent gun for killing zombies. Much more fun than my AK or AR. It would even make my Remington700 jealous.

20" Heavy barrel, and a 10 round mag so it's legal in NY.

Descending from the legendary Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), the FNAR puts autoloading speed and bolt-action accuracy into one powerful package.



HungrySeagull's picture

Who needs a refund when you can dig it out of the ground?


This is nutz.

MobBarley's picture

This is an oppurtunity no self respecting ghangsta thugs can pass up.

Shoot a few body guards, dig up some dirt, and voila $300 LARGE IN GOLD AND DIAMONDS.


 That's one dumb family.


Vlad Tepid's picture

I curently reside on a festering US territory in the Pacific where the local government ROUTINELY takes years and sometimes decades to return tax refunds.  The refunds usually occur at exactly the same time as a massive cash influx from Uncle Sam following a natural disaster.  This Ponzi-fied kleptocracy is coming to a street corner near you.

Shizzmoney's picture

Refund? I'm lucky I can get a reacharound!

krispkritter's picture

Used the tax-in-a-box stuff for several years but went to a CPA for the corporation. Finally gave up on the software and turned current and three priors over to the CPA. Even after refiling I got extra money back for all priors and have never gone back to the software. I would rather have a flat tax but if you're going to file go to a pro. And I don't mean Tax America or H&R, most of them use the same crappy stuff you find in a box filed by people they hired who last week were living in a box.  First and last time I used H&R they buried me in an $1800 hole at 18yo. I used a friends CPA and got out except for penalties for a mis-file. H&R wouldn't even refund my fees. If you think the software companies are doing you a favor by making it easy to fuck yourself, take your return to a competent professional after you've run it through Turbo Timmy's Terrific Tax Torture device and see if you come out ahead. And no, I'm not a CPA...

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

As a CFP® myself I would never consider using off-the-shelf tax software for anything other than simple returns. The tax code is too complicated, particularly when dealing with a business, income producing real estate, corporations, trusts etc. to use anything other than a professional. This is the advice I give to myself, my clients and to any friends and family who are dealing with any sort of tax complexity.

MachoMan's picture

What  most people don't understand is that the tax professional makes his living by MAKING YOU MONEY.  If he's going to charge more than he can save you, then he punts (if he's worth a shit).  This applies to all strata of income, although the likelihood and cushion available is obviously better the more you make.

There is also the added benefit of someone else's name on your return...  If you're not a tax professional, this may save you a lot of headache/jail time. 

If you go to a tax professional, a good question is how much interaction do they have with the IRS on audits or the like?  If they have a good working basis with local IRS agents, then that is a VERY good thing...

Bitchin Bear's picture

CD - not having enough "earned income' I cannot speak to your issue with the refund.  HOWEVER I love your 'ON' ACCIDENT notation.  Having two children in their thirties they have been saying this stupid crap all their lives much to the chagrin of their parents.  Where the hell does this come from?  Whatever happened to 'BY ACCIDENT'? 

Cognitive Dissonance's picture


I recently learned the not-so-subtle adult difference between 'by accident', which is truly accidental, and 'on accident', which is accidentally on purpose. Mrs. Cog tells me that this usage originally came about because some children say 'on accident' mainly because they don't understand the subtle difference between the prepositions 'by' and 'on'.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

MobBarley's picture

Reality Switch -> INTENT [   X] ACCIDENT


ziggy59's picture

CD, here is article seen on drudge today....right on schedule
IRS still experiencing delays in sending tax refunds

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Nice cover story. I'm sure there is some basis of truth to the story. Gotta have some degree of plausible deniability when screwing over the natives.

Colorado14er's picture

No complaints here on the speed (received within 10 days or so), however, on my wife's insistence, we used Turbo Tax and were charged a roughly $70 "fee" for having our refund direct deposited into our account (I argued for a mailed check based on the basic principle of not providing our bank account information, but lost that argument as well).

Guess who made the deposit?  A third-party bank. 

I'm not kidding.  I'm not sure if the "fee" was disclosed by Turbo Tax prior to submitting or if my wife wasn't paying attention.  I swear, you walk away for 10 seconds...

Also, I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would increase their withholdings level just so they can receive a refund, other than admitting that you suck at budgeting money.  Our refund was $1200, and only because of my wife's high witholdings level and the child tax credit.

OldPhart's picture

I filed my younger sons on line because, with his income, there were all sorts of free online filing sites.  He got his modest refund from the IRS in less than a week.  California refund, of course, is still pending.

I did my own by using the forms and printing them out to mail.  I see no need to pay to get my modest return OR to pay some dumbass to fill out a couple of relatively simple forms.  My mailed form was sent the day after the online forms were filed.  Haven't heard a word so far.

I'm fairly certain, this year, that I'll see a minimal refund from the Feds.  It's still a crap shoot what California will release, or when, if ever.


It's a simple philosophy and it's kept my ass out of trouble for over fourty years.

WmMcK's picture

Increase withholdings = Interest free loan