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401(k) Taxes: Rules on Withdrawals and Contributions

Employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401(k) are a common way for workers to save for retirement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a little more than half of private industry employees participate in a retirement plan at work. So participants need to understand how 401(k) taxes work to take advantage of this popular retirement savings tool.

With a traditional 401(k) plan, employees can contribute a portion of their salary to an account with various investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cash.

There are two main types of workplace 401(k) plans: a traditional 401(k) plan and a Roth 401(k). The 401(k) tax rules depend on which plan an employee participates in.

Traditional 401(k) Tax Rules

When it comes to this employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, here are key things to know about 401(k) taxes and 401(k) withdrawal tax.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Retirement Plans

401(k) Contributions are Made With Pre-tax Income

One of the biggest advantages of a 401(k) is its tax break on contributions. When you contribute to a 401(k), the money is deducted from your paycheck before taxes are taken out, which reduces your taxable income for the year. This means that you’ll pay less in income tax, which can save you a significant amount of money over time.

If you’re contributing to your company’s 401(k), each time you receive a paycheck, a self-determined portion of it is deposited into your 401(k) account before taxes are taken out, and the rest is taxed and paid to you.

For 2024, participants can contribute up to $23,000 to a 401(k) plan, plus $7,500 in catch-up contributions if they’re 50 or older. These contribution limits are up from 2023, when the limit was $22,500, plus the additional $7,500 for those aged 50 and up.

401(k) Contributions Lower Your Taxable Income

The more you contribute to your 401(k) account, the lower your taxable income is in that year. If you contribute 15% of your income to your 401(k), for instance, you’ll only owe taxes on 85% of your income.

Withdrawals From a 401(k) Account Are Taxable

When you take withdrawals from your 401(k) account in retirement, you’ll be taxed on your contributions and any earnings accrued over time.

The withdrawals count as taxable income, so during the years you withdraw funds from your 401(k) account, you will owe taxes in your retirement income tax bracket.

Early 401(k) Withdrawals Come With Taxes and Penalties

If you withdraw money from your 401(k) before age 59 ½, you’ll owe both income taxes and a 10% tax penalty on the distribution.

Although individual retirement accounts (IRAs) allow penalty-free early withdrawals for qualified first-time homebuyers and qualified higher education expenses, that is not true for 401(k) plans.

That said, if an employee leaves a company during or after the year they turn 55, they can start taking distributions from their 401(k) account without paying taxes or early withdrawal penalties.

Can you take out a loan or hardship withdrawal from your plan assets? Many plans do allow that up to a certain amount, but withdrawing money from a retirement account means you lose out on the compound growth from funds withdrawn. You will also have to pay interest (yes, to yourself) on the loan.

Roth 401(k) Tax Rules

Here are some tax rules for the Roth 401(k).

Your Roth 401(k) Contributions Are Made With After-Tax Income

When it comes to taxes, a Roth 401(k) works the opposite way of a traditional 401(k). Your contributions are post-tax, meaning you pay taxes on the money in the year you contribute.

If you have a Roth 401(k) and your company offers a 401(k) match, that matching contribution will go into a pre-tax account, which would be a traditional 401(k) account. So you would essentially have a Roth 401(k) made up of your own contributions and a traditional 401(k) of your employer’s contributions.

Recommended: How an Employer 401(k) Match Works

Roth 401(k) Contributions Do Not Lower Your Taxable Income

When you have Roth 401(k) contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck, your full paycheck amount will be taxed, and then money will be transferred to your Roth 401(k).

For instance, if you’re making $50,000 and contributing 10% to a Roth 401(k), $5,000 will be deposited into your Roth 401(k) annually, but you’ll still be taxed on the full $50,000.

Roth 401(k) Withdrawals Are Tax-Free

When you take money from your Roth 401(k) in retirement, the distributions are tax-free, including your contributions and any earnings that have accrued (as long as you’ve had the account for at least five years).

No matter what your tax bracket is in retirement, qualified withdrawals from your Roth 401(k) are not counted as taxable income.

There Are Limits on Roth 401(k) Withdrawals

In order for a withdrawal from a Roth 401(k) to count as a qualified distribution — meaning, it won’t be taxed — an employee must be age 59 ½ or older and have held the account for at least five years.

If you make a withdrawal before this point — even if you’re age 61 but have only held the account since age 58 — the withdrawal would be considered an early, or unqualified, withdrawal. If this happens, you would owe taxes on any earnings you withdraw and could pay a 10% penalty.

Early withdrawals are prorated according to the ratio of contributions to earnings in the account. For instance, if your Roth 401(k) had $100,000 in it, made up of $70,000 in contributions and $30,000 in earnings, your early withdrawals would be made up of 70% contributions and 30% earnings. Hence, you would owe taxes and potentially penalties on 30% of your early withdrawal.

If the plan allows it, you can take a loan from your Roth 401(k), just like a traditional 401(k), and the same rules and limits apply to how much you can borrow. Any Roth 401(k) loan amount will be combined with outstanding loans from that plan or any other plan your employer maintains to determine your loan limits.

You Can Roll Roth 401(k) Money Into a Roth IRA

Money in a Roth 401(k) account can be rolled into a Roth IRA. Like an employer-sponsored Roth 401(k), a Roth IRA is funded with after-tax dollars.

One of the significant differences between a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA is that the 401(k) requires participants to start taking required minimum distributions at age 72, but there is no such requirement for a Roth IRA.

It’s important to note, however, that there’s also a five-year rule for Roth IRAs: Earnings cannot be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free from a Roth IRA until five years after the account’s first contribution. If you roll a Roth 401(k) into a new Roth IRA, the five-year clock starts over at that time.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a 401(k) Rollover?

If you do a direct rollover of your 401(k) into an IRA or another eligible retirement account, you generally won’t have to pay taxes on the rollover. However, if you receive the funds from your 401(k) and then roll them over yourself within 60 days, you may have to pay taxes on the amount rolled over, as the IRS will treat it as a distribution from the 401(k).

Recommended: How to Roll Over Your 401(k)

Do You Have to Pay 401(k) Taxes after 59 ½?

If you have a traditional 401(k), you will generally have to pay taxes on withdrawals after age 59 ½. This is because the money you contributed to the 401(k) was not taxed when you earned it, so it’s considered income when you withdraw it in retirement.

However, if you have a Roth 401(k), you can withdraw your contributions and earnings tax-free in retirement as long as you meet certain requirements, such as being at least 59 ½ and having had the account for at least five years.

Do You Pay 401(k) Taxes on Employer Contributions?

The taxation of employer contributions to a 401(k) depends on whether the account is a traditional or Roth 401(k).

In the case of traditional 401(k) contributions, the employer contributions are not included in your taxable income for the year they are made, but you will pay taxes on them when you withdraw the funds from the 401(k) in retirement.

In the case of Roth contributions, the employer contributions are not included in a post-tax Roth 401(k) but rather in a pre-tax traditional 401(k) account. So, you do not pay taxes on the employer contributions in a Roth 401(k), but you do pay taxes on withdrawals.

How Can I Avoid 401(k) Taxes on My Withdrawal?

The only way to avoid taxes on 401(k) withdrawals is to take advantage of a Roth 401(k), as noted above. With a Roth 401(k), your contributions are made post-tax, but withdrawals are tax-free if you meet certain criteria to avoid the penalties mentioned above.

However, even if you have to pay taxes on your 401(k) withdrawals, you can take the following steps to minimize your taxes.

Consider Your Tax Bracket

Contributing to a traditional 401(k) is essentially a bet that you’ll be in a lower tax bracket in retirement — you’re choosing to forgo taxes now and pay taxes later.

Contributing to a Roth 401(k) takes the opposite approach: Pay taxes now, so you don’t have to pay taxes later. The best approach for you will depend on your income, your tax situation, and your future tax treatment expectations.

Strategize Your Account Mix

Having savings in different accounts — both pre-tax and post-tax — may offer more flexibility in retirement.

For instance, if you need to make a large purchase, such as a vacation home or a car, it may be helpful to be able to pull the income from a source that doesn’t trigger a taxable event. This might mean a retirement strategy that includes a traditional 401(k), a Roth IRA, and a taxable brokerage account.

Decide Where To Live

Eight U.S. states don’t charge individual income tax at all: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. And New Hampshire only taxes interest and dividend income.

This can affect your tax planning if you live in a tax-free state now or intend to live in a tax-free state in retirement.

The Takeaway

Saving for retirement is one of the best ways to prepare for a secure future. And understanding the tax rules for 401(k) withdrawals and contributions is essential for effective retirement planning. By educating yourself on the rules and regulations surrounding 401(k) taxes, you can optimize your retirement savings and minimize your tax burden.

Another strategy to help stay on top of your retirement savings is to roll over a previous 401(k) to a rollover IRA. Then you can manage your money in one place.

SoFi makes the rollover process seamless. The process is automated so there’s no need to watch the mail for your 401(k) check — and there are no rollover fees or taxes.

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Do you get taxed on your 401(k)?

You either pay taxes on your 401(k) contributions — in the case of a Roth 401(k) — or on your traditional 401(k) withdrawals in retirement.

When can you withdraw from 401(k) tax free?

You can withdraw from a Roth 401(k) tax-free if you have had the account for at least five years and are over age 59 ½. With a traditional 401(k), withdrawals are generally subject to income tax.

How can I avoid paying taxes on my 401(k)?

You never truly avoid paying taxes on a 401(k), as you either have to pay taxes on contributions or withdrawals, depending on the type of 401(k) account. By contributing to a Roth 401(k) instead of a traditional 401(k), you can withdraw your contributions and earnings tax-free in retirement.


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2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
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Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Update: The deadline for making IRA contributions for tax year 2020 has been extended to May 17, 2021.
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How Much Auto Insurance Do I Really Need?

Figuring out just how much car insurance you really need can be a challenge.

At minimum, you’ll want to make sure you have enough car insurance to meet the requirements of your state or the lender who’s financing your car. Beyond that, there’s coverage you might want to add to those required amounts. These policies will help ensure that you’re adequately protecting yourself, your family, and your assets. And then there’s the coverage that actually fits within your budget.

We know it may not be a fun topic to think about what would happen if you were involved in a car accident, but given that well over five million drivers are involved in one every year, it’s a priority to get coverage. Finding a car insurance policy that checks all those boxes may take a bit of research — and possibly some compromise. Here are some of the most important factors to consider.

How Much Car Insurance Is Required by Your State?

A good launching pad for researching how much car insurance you need is to check what your state requires by law. Only two states do not require a car owner to carry some amount of insurance: New Hampshire and Virginia. If you live elsewhere, find out how much and what types of coverage a policyholder must have. Typically, there are options available. Once you’ve found this information, consider it the bare minimum to purchase.


💡 Quick Tip: Saving money on your fixed costs isn’t always easy. One exception is auto insurance. Shopping around for a better deal really can pay off.

Types of Car Insurance Coverage

As you dig into the topic, you’ll hear a lot of different terms used to describe the various kinds of coverage that are offered. Let’s take a closer look here:

Liability Coverage

Most states require drivers to carry auto liability insurance. What it does: It helps pay the cost of damages to others involved in an accident if it’s determined you were at fault.

Let’s say you were to cause an accident, whether that means rear-ending a car or backing into your neighbor’s fence while pulling out of a shared driveway. Your insurance would pay for the other driver’s repairs, medical bills, lost wages, and other related costs. What it wouldn’t pay for: Your costs or the costs relating to passengers in your car.

Each state sets its own minimum requirements for this liability coverage. For example, in California, drivers must carry at least $15,000 in coverage for the injury/death of one person, $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person, and $5,000 for damage to property. The shorthand for this, in terms of shopping for car insurance, would be that you have 15/30/5 coverage.

But in Maryland, the amounts are much higher: $30,000 in bodily injury liability per person, $60,000 in bodily injury liability per accident (if there are multiple injuries), and $15,000 in property damage liability per accident. (That would be 30/60/15 coverage.)

And some may want to go beyond what the state requires. If you carry $15,000 worth of property damage liability coverage, for example, and you get in an accident that causes $25,000 worth of damage to someone else’s car, your insurance company will only pay the $15,000 policy limit. You’d be expected to come up with the remaining $10,000.

Generally, recommendations suggest you purchase as much as you could lose if a lawsuit were filed against you and you lost. In California, some say that you may want 250/500/100 in coverage – much more than the 15/30/5 mandated by law.

Recommended: What Does Liability Auto Insurance Typically Cover?

Collision Coverage

Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged in an accident with another car that was your fault. It will also help pay for repairs if, say, you hit an inanimate object, be it a fence, tree, guardrail, building, dumpster, pothole, or anything else.

If you have a car loan or lease, you’ll need collision coverage. If, however, your car is paid off or isn’t worth much, you may decide you don’t need collision coverage. For instance, if your car is old and its value is quite low, is it worth paying for this kind of premium, which can certainly add up over the years?

But if you depend on your vehicle and you can’t afford to replace it, or you can’t afford to pay out of pocket for damages, collision coverage may well be worth having. You also may want to keep your personal risk tolerance in mind when considering collision coverage. If the cost of even a minor fender bender makes you nervous, this kind of insurance could help you feel a lot more comfortable when you get behind the wheel.

Comprehensive Coverage

When you drive, you know that unexpected events happen. A pebble can hit your windshield as you drive on the highway and cause a crack. A tree branch can go flying in a storm and put a major dent in your car. Comprehensive insurance covers these events and more. It’s a policy that pays for physical damage to your car that doesn’t happen in a collision, including theft, vandalism, a broken window, weather damage, or even hitting a deer or some other animal.

If you finance or lease your car, your lender will probably require it. But even if you own your car outright, you may want to consider comprehensive coverage. The cost of including it in your policy could be relatively small compared to what it would take to repair or replace your car if it’s damaged or stolen.

Personal Injury Protection and Medical Payments Coverage

Several states require Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments coverage (MedPay for short). This is typically part of the state’s no-fault auto insurance laws, which say that if a policyholder is injured in a crash, that person’s insurance pays for their medical care, regardless of who caused the accident.

While these two types of medical coverage help pay for medical expenses that you and any passengers in your car sustain in an accident, there is a difference. MedPay pays for medical expenses only, and is often available only in small increments, up to $5,000. PIP may also cover loss of income, funeral expenses, and other costs. The amount required varies hugely depending on where you live. For instance, in Utah, it’s $3,000 per person coverage; in New York, it’s $50,000 per person.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Despite the fact that the vast majority of states require car insurance, there are lots of uninsured drivers out there. The number of them on the road can range from one in eight to one in five! In addition, there are people on the road who have the bare minimum of coverage, which may not be adequate when accidents occur.

For these reasons, you may want to take out Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. Many states require these policies, which are designed to protect you if you’re in an accident with a motorist who has little or no insurance. In states that require this type of coverage, the minimums are generally set at about $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. But the exact amounts vary from state to state. And you may choose to carry this coverage even if it isn’t required in your state.

If you’re seriously injured in an accident caused by a driver who doesn’t carry liability car insurance, uninsured motorist coverage could help you and your passengers avoid paying some scary-high medical bills.

Let’s take a quick look at some terms you may see if you shop for this kind of coverage:

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UMBI)

This kind of policy covers your medical bills, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering after an accident when the other driver is not insured. Additionally, it provides coverage for those costs if any passengers were in your vehicle when the accident occurred.

Uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD)

With this kind of policy, your insurer will pay for repairs to your car plus other property if someone who doesn’t carry insurance is responsible for an accident. Some policies in certain states may also provide coverage if you’re involved in a hit-and-run incident.

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM)

Let’s say you and a passenger get into an accident that’s the other driver’s fault, and the medical bills total $20,000…but the person responsible is only insured for $15,000. A UIM policy would step in and pay the difference to help you out.

Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) Insurance

Here’s another kind of insurance to consider: GAP insurance, which recognizes that cars can quickly depreciate in value and helps you manage that. For example, if your car were stolen or totaled in an accident (though we hope that never happens), GAP coverage will pay the difference between what its actual value is (say, $5,000) and what you still owe on your auto loan or lease (for example, $10,000).

GAP insurance is optional and generally requires that you add it onto a full coverage auto insurance policy. In some instances, this coverage may be rolled in with an auto lease.

Non-Owner Coverage

You may think you don’t need car insurance if you don’t own a car. (Maybe you take public transportation or ride your bike most of the time.) But if you still plan to drive occasionally — when you travel and rent a car, for example, or you sometimes borrow a friend’s car — a non-owner policy can provide liability coverage for any bodily injury or property damage you cause.

The insurance policy on the car you’re driving will probably be considered the “primary” coverage, which means it will kick in first. Then your non-owner policy could be used for costs that are over the limits of the primary policy.

Rideshare Coverage

If you drive for a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft, you may want to consider adding rideshare coverage to your personal automobile policy.

Rideshare companies are required by law in some states to provide commercial insurance for drivers who are using their personal cars — but that coverage could be limited. (For example, it may not cover the time when a driver is waiting for a ride request but hasn’t actually picked up a passenger.) This coverage could fill the gaps between your personal insurance policy and any insurance provided by the ridesharing service. Whether you are behind the wheel occasionally or full-time, it’s probably worth exploring.

Recommended: Which Insurance Types Do You Really Need?

Why You Need Car Insurance

Car insurance is an important layer of protection; it helps safeguard your financial wellbeing in the case of an accident. Given how much most Americans drive – around 14,000 miles or more a year – it’s likely a valuable investment.

What If You Don’t Have Car Insurance?

There can be serious penalties for driving a car without valid insurance. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios: If an officer pulls you over and you can’t prove you have the minimum coverage required in your state, you could get a ticket. Your license could be suspended. What’s more, the officer might have your car towed away from the scene.

That’s a relatively minor inconvenience. Consider that if you’re in a car accident, the penalties for driving without insurance could be far more significant. If you caused the incident, you may be held personally responsible for paying any damages to others involved; one recent report found the average bodily injury claim totaled more than $24,000. And even if you didn’t cause the accident, the amount you can recover from the at-fault driver may be restricted.

If that convinces you of the value of auto insurance (and we hope it does), you may see big discrepancies in the amounts of coverage. For example, there may be a tremendous difference between the amount you have to have, how much you think you should have to feel secure, and what you can afford.

That’s why it can help to know what your state and your lender might require as a starting point. Keep in mind that having car insurance isn’t just about getting your car — or someone else’s — fixed or replaced. (Although that — and the fact that it’s illegal to not have insurance — may be motivation enough to at least get basic car insurance coverage.)

Having the appropriate levels of coverage can also help you protect all your other assets — your home, business, savings, etc. — if you’re in a catastrophic accident and the other parties involved decide to sue you to pay their bills. And let us emphasize: Your state’s minimum liability requirements may not be enough to cover those costs — and you could end up paying the difference out of pocket, which could have a huge impact on your finances.

Discover real-time vehicle values with Auto Tracker.¹

Now you can instantly monitor vehicle prices in this unprecedented market—to help you make smart money moves.


Finding the Best Car Insurance for You

If you’re convinced of the value of getting car insurance, the next step is to decide on the right policy for you. Often, the question on people’s minds is, “How can I balance getting the right coverage at an affordable price?”

What’s the Right Amount of Car Insurance Coverage for You?

To get a ballpark figure in mind, consider these numbers:

Type of Coverage

Basic

Good

Excellent
Liability Your state’s minimum •   $100,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $300,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

◦   $100,000 for property damage

•   $250,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $500,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

◦   $250,000 for property damage

Collision Not required Recommended Recommended
Comprehensive Not required Recommended Recommended
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Your state’s minimum $40,000 Your state’s maximum
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (UM, UIM) Coverage Your state’s minimum •   $100,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $300,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

•   $250,000/person for bodily injury liability

◦   $500,000/ accident for bodily injury liability

Here are some points to consider that will help you get the best policy for you.

Designing a Policy that Works for You

Your insurance company will probably offer several coverage options, and you may be able to build a policy around what you need based on your lifestyle. For example, if your car is paid off and worth only a few thousand dollars, you may choose to opt out of collision insurance in order to get more liability coverage.

Choosing a Deductible

Your deductible is the amount you might have to pay out personally before your insurance company begins paying any damages. Let’s say your car insurance policy has a $500 deductible, and you hit a guardrail on the highway when you swerve to avoid a collision. If the damage was $2,500, you would pay the $500 deductible and your insurer would pay for the other $2,000 in repairs. (Worth noting: You may have two different deductibles when you hold an auto insurance policy — one for comprehensive coverage and one for collision.)

Just as with your health insurance, your insurance company will likely offer you a lower premium if you choose to go with a higher deductible ($1,000 instead of $500, for example). Also, you typically pay this deductible every time you file a claim. It’s not like the situation with some health insurance policies, in which you satisfy a deductible once a year.

If you have savings or some other source of money you could use for repairs, you might be able to go with a higher deductible and save on your insurance payments. But if you aren’t sure where the money would come from in a pinch, it may make sense to opt for a lower deductible.

Checking the Costs of Added Coverage

As you assess how much coverage to get, here’s some good news: Buying twice as much liability coverage won’t necessarily double the price of your premium. You may be able to manage more coverage than you think. Before settling for a bare-bones policy, it can help to check on what it might cost to increase your coverage. This information is often easily available online, via calculator tools, rather than by spending time on the phone with a salesperson.

Finding Discounts that Could Help You Save

Some insurers (including SoFi Protect) reward safe drivers or “good drivers” with lower premiums. If you have a clean driving record, free of accidents and claims, you are a low risk for your insurer and they may extend you a discount.

Another way to save: Bundling car and home insurance is another way to cut costs. Look for any discounts or packages that would help you save.


💡 Quick Tip: If your car is paid off and worth only a few thousand dollars, consider updating your car insurance: You might choose to opt out of collision coverage and double down on liability.

The Takeaway

Buying car insurance is an important step in protecting yourself in case of an accident or theft. It’s not just about repairing or replacing your vehicle. It’s also about ensuring that medical fees and lost wages are protected – and securing your assets if there were ever a lawsuit filed against you.

These are potentially life-altering situations, so it’s worth spending a bit of time on the few key steps that will help you get the right coverage at the right price. It begins with knowing what your state or your car-loan lender requires. Then, you’ll review the different kinds of policies and premiums available. Put these pieces together, and you’ll find the insurance that best suits your needs and budget.

When you’re ready to shop for auto insurance, SoFi can help. Our online auto insurance comparison tool lets you see quotes from a network of top insurance providers within minutes, saving you time and hassle.

SoFi brings you real rates, with no bait and switch.


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¹SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. Vehicle Identification Number is confirmed by LexisNexis and car values are provided by J.D. Power. Auto Tracker is provided on an “as-is, as-available” basis with all faults and defects, with no warranty, express or implied. The values shown on this page are a rough estimate based on your car’s year, make, and model, but don’t take into account things such as your mileage, accident history, or car condition.

Insurance not available in all states.
Experian is a registered service mark of Experian Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
Social Finance, LLC ("SoFi") is compensated by Experian for each customer who purchases a policy through Experian from the site.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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What Is a Fully Funded PhD Program and How Do I Find One?

If you are motivated, you may decide to pursue a PhD program in your given field of study. However, you are probably aware that doing so not only requires time and energy but can also be an expensive proposition. According the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a doctorate degree (which typically takes four to eight years) is $150,835. The average student loan debt for this kind of degree is $112,080.

That can be a daunting sum, but a fully funded PhD program can offset part or all of these costs. In addition to financing tuition and fees, these programs usually provide a stipend to help cover living expenses. Some may also pay for any research and travel necessary for students to complete their graduate degrees.

Since this can make a huge difference in a prospective student’s financial outlook, here’s a closer look at fully funded PhD programs, how they work, and how they can help lower the cost of a degree.

Key Points

•   Fully funded PhD programs cover all tuition fees and often provide a stipend for living expenses.

•   These programs may also support research and travel necessary for students to complete their degrees.

•   Prospective students should explore various funding sources, including federal grants, state and local grants, and private scholarships.

•   Debt forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, are available for qualifying graduates in specific sectors.

•   Applying for fully funded positions is competitive, and candidates are advised to thoroughly research and apply to programs that align with their academic and professional goals.

What is a PhD Program?

PhD programs, also known as doctoral programs, are often a next step after a master’s degree. They give students the opportunity to do graduate-level research in the field of their choice and earn the highest degree possible (sometimes referred to as a terminal degree). They span a variety of subjects, such as engineering, English, public health, and computer science.

The application process for a PhD program can be competitive, and the programs themselves can be very time-consuming, taking (as mentioned above) on average between four and eight years. Working while pursuing these specialized degrees can be challenging, which is why it can be so helpful when a program offers an annual stipend.


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What Does Fully Funded Mean?

In a fully funded PhD program, the student typically receives full tuition reimbursement and a stipend to help cover the cost of living while pursuing the degree. Programs have varying funding requirements.

In some cases, students may receive a “no-strings-attached” fellowship. This means they receive funding but don’t owe the university anything aside from their research.

In many cases, to receive funding, a student will need to work part-time for the university by providing teaching or administrative assistance. These experiences can give students an opportunity to build out their resume while helping them pay for graduate school.

More often than not, these graduate fellowship positions are the main way to receive full funding to attend a PhD program and are commonly offered in research-based degree programs. Some fellowships may be offered in the form of scholarships or stipends, which are not usually taxed as income by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

Schools may also offer assistantships, where students earn an income from the university. Generally, these positions are given to doctoral students who are doing research in order to complete their theses or dissertations. Assistantships can be taxed as income.

While all PhD programs have their own unique funding packages, many fully funded programs are designed to help students cover a variety of costs. Here are some common ones.

Tuition and Fees

Typically, fully funded PhD programs provide students with so-called “tuition waivers.” The waivers cover the cost of attending the university, including tuition and fees. In some cases, book stipends, reduced-fare transit passes, and other benefits are included to lessen the student’s financial burden.

Recommended: How to Pay for Grad School

Living Expenses

Whether through fellowship funding or a university job, students in a fully funded PhD program can receive a stipend to pay for food, rent, transportation, and other living expenses.

Depending on a student’s cost of living and lifestyle choices, these lump sums might not be enough to fully cover costs. This may be especially true during the summer, when stipends are less likely to be given out. If their program does not offer summer funding, students might choose to work part-time or take out loans to make ends meet.

Recommended: Using Student Loans for Living Expenses Off Campus

Health Insurance

While many doctoral programs include health insurance benefits, some do not. As you’re exploring graduate school programs, it’s a good idea to find out if it provides this important type of coverage.

Generally, student health insurance packages only cover care and services at on-campus facilities. Some programs automatically enroll their students in one type of healthcare plan, and others allow students to choose their plan during the annual open enrollment period.

If a student is married or has dependents, they may be able to add them to their student health insurance plan for an additional cost.

Research and Travel Funding

If necessary, some programs allow doctoral students to apply for funding to help them conduct their research or travel to conferences, archives, or summer programs. This is something students apply for on an as-needed basis and is not a guarantee.

In some cases, students will pay the costs up front and then be reimbursed. Grants and scholarships can also help cover research and travel expenses.

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How to Find a Fully Funded PhD Program

There are sites that allow you to search for various PhD programs around the world. But one of the best ways to discover which programs are fully funded can be by conducting your own research.

•   Before submitting an application to a PhD program, learn more about the university’s resources, faculty members, and requirements for graduation. Look into the specifics of the funding options available at each university you plan to apply to, as PhD programs may address funding differently. Often, schools will include information about these opportunities on their website.

•   While some universities automatically give grants or fellowships to their admitted students, others make their students complete a separate funding application. These applications can require submitting letters of recommendation or personal statements and can have deadlines that are different from the application deadline for the doctoral program.

Examples of Fully Funded PhD Programs

It’s possible to find fully funded PhD programs across a variety of subjects at many different schools. From a PhD in biological sciences at Harvard to education at Stanford to nursing at Duke, fully funded PhD programs cover an array of study areas.


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Paying Down Student Loan Debt

If you have student loan debt from an undergraduate or master’s degree that you want to pay down before or during a PhD program, you might consider exploring student loan refinancing. Refinancing could help you save money in interest over the life of the loan and pay down your debt faster.

Student loan refinancing involves taking out a new loan at a new interest rate and/or a new term that can be more favorable than the current rate or terms you currently have. It is possible to refinance both federal and private student loans.

But there are two important caveats:

•   When you refinance federal student loans with private loans, you forfeit access to federal benefits and protection, such as forbearance, forgiveness, and income-driven repayment plans.

•   Also, if you refinance for an extended term, while your monthly payments may decrease, you can pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Think carefully about these points when deciding if refinancing could be the right option for you.

The Takeaway

Pursuing the highest possible graduate degree can be expensive, but a fully funded PhD program can offset all or part of the costs. Programs vary from school to school, but they typically cover the cost of tuition and may include a stipend to help finance living expenses and more. In some cases, PhD candidates will be required to do research or teach as part of the agreement to receive funding. Students can also explore other ways to cover the cost of school, including scholarships or grants.

In addition, PhD candidates who are paying off student loans from an undergraduate or master’s degree may want to consider student loan refinancing. Doing so with federal loans via a private loan means forfeiting federal benefits and protections. Also, refinancing for an extended term could mean paying more interest over the life of the loan.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


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If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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25 Tax Deductions for Freelancers

Are you a freelancer? If so, you are in good company. Last year, almost 40% of the U.S. population did freelance work.

As the gig economy surges and more people participate, it’s important to be aware of the taxes you owe and the deductions you can take. Those deductions can help lower the amount of taxes you owe and help you keep more of your hard-earned money, so you’ll want to claim what’s due to you.

Taxes for those who are self-employed can get complex, and tax laws can change frequently. It’s therefore wise to do your research or hire a tax professional who focuses on freelance taxes.

But whether you choose to work with a tax pro, or go it on your own, it can be very helpful to know about the self-employed tax deductions that are usually allowed. To help you get up to speed, read on for 25 tax deductions that many freelancers can take.

Self-Employed Tax Deductions You Won’t Want to Miss

When considering whether an expense is deductible or not, you may want this rule of thumb in mind: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guideline for freelancer tax deductions is that expenses must be ordinary and necessary.

If you purchase an item or incur an expense even if you weren’t running your freelance business, it likely would not qualify for a deduction.

Below are some key deductions you may be able to qualify for. Knowing and noting them can help you with financial planning for freelancers.

1. Home Office

Are you earning money from home? If so, one of the most common deductions for freelancers is claiming a home office on your taxes. To take this deduction, the designated space must be used regularly and exclusively for business operations, and must be the principal location where business is conducted.

You can take this deduction whether your own or rent. You can use the simplified method, which has a rate of $5 per square foot for business use of the home, with a maximum deduction of $1,500 (or 300 square feet), according to the IRS .

Or, you can use the regular method, which divides expenses of operating the home (including mortgage/rent, real estate taxes, utilities, home insurance) between personal and business use.

Calculating Home Office Tax Deductions

To maximize your deduction for a home office you may want to calculate both the simplified and the regular techniques to see which is higher.

•   As mentioned above, the simplified method involves calculating your home office’s square footage (up to a cap of 300 square feet), and multiplying that by five.

•   For the regular method, you would use IRS Form 8829 to figure out the number. While this is a more involved calculation, it might yield a higher number.

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2. Office Supplies

Looking for more tax deductions for freelancers? The materials you purchase to work in your home office, such as paper, pens, pencils, pads, printer ink, staples, paper clips, etc, can typically be deducted at full cost as long as the items are used for business.

3. Hardware and Equipment

If you require specific hardware, such as a laptop, personal computer, tablet, or other types of equipment to run your business, these purchases may count as deductions.

Or maybe you earn money from a side hustle like photography or jewelry making, which requires specialized equipment.

You may want to talk to your accountant about the best way to deduct these expenses, as some bigger purchases that will be used beyond one year may need to be depreciated over a set number of years, rather than deducted in full.

4. Web Hosting and Online Tools

If you have a website and pay fees for web hosting, these expenses can likely be deducted from your taxes. If you use other online tools for your business (such as Dropbox or Zoom), fees you pay for these services can also usually be deducted.

5. Phone And Internet Service

If you use the internet, a landline phone, or a cell phone for business at least some of the time, these services may qualify for a deduction.

You may want to keep in mind, however, that you can generally only deduct a portion based on your business usage.

6. Start-Up Costs

Here’s another freelance tax deduction: You may be able to deduct up to $5,000 of initial purchases and investments made to get your business up and running in its first year. Purchases that exceed that amount can often be deducted over time.

7. Employee Salaries

The cost of paying employees to work within a business can usually be deducted. These costs generally include both wages and benefits.

8. Self-Employment Tax

Are you a 1099 worker? Self-employment taxes cover freelancer contributions toward Social Security and Medicare. You can generally deduct the employer-equivalent portion of your self-employment tax, which is half the total self-employment tax.

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9. Your Car

The entire cost of ownership and maintenance of any vehicle used strictly for business purposes can typically be deducted from business income (subject to some limits). For 2023, the standard mileage rate per the IRS for business-related driving you do is 65.5 cents/mile.

Cars driven for both business and personal use can also be deducted, but only for costs incurred while conducting business. It’s wise to set up a system to keep track of when you are driving for personal vs. professional purposes.

10. Unpaid Invoices

Also known as bad debt, unpaid invoices (meaning your business is owed money that it has no hope of reclaiming) may be deductible.

However, in order for the deduction to be allowed, it must be clear to both parties that the transaction was not a gift.

11. Business License

Depending on the industry, certain state and federal licenses may be required for a business to operate. However, there may be an amortization schedule to be aware of, meaning you would deduct percentages of the cost over time.

The fees paid annually to state or local governments for obtaining those licenses can generally be deducted.

It’s wise to look further into the tax code to be sure you understand how to properly take these deductions.

12. Qualified Business Income

This is a newer self-employment deduction. If you earn $182,100 or less as a single filer (or $364,200 as a joint filer) in 2023, you may qualify for a 20% deduction on your taxable business income via the QBI, or qualified business income deduction.

13. Product Supplies and Storage Units

For freelancers who sell products, the supplies purchased in order to make those products can usually be a freelance tax deduction.

The costs of keeping business supplies and assets in a storage unit can generally also be deducted, since storage is an expense factored into the overall cost of the goods sold.

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14. Business Loan Interest

If you’ve taken out a loan to help fund your business, you may be able to deduct the interest you incur from it as a business expense.

For this to be deductible, however, a freelancer must be legally liable for that debt. In addition, both the freelancer and the lender must intend that the debt be repaid and have a true debtor-creditor relationship.

15. Meals

Sorry, buying takeout and eating it at your desk isn’t tax-deductible. But if you are traveling for business, at a conference, or dining with a client, then you can deduct 50% of the cost if you have the receipt. If you don’t have the receipt, you can take off 50% of the standard meal allowance.

16. Transaction Fees

If part of your business involves processing credit card orders, you may have an additional freelancer deduction. The processing costs a freelancer may incur by accepting credit cards payments is usually deductible as a qualified business expense.

17. Attorney & Accountant Fees

The fees charged by attorneys and accountants that are related to operating your business are typically considered tax-deductible business expenses.

That includes tax preparation fees, as well as any additional tax resolution expenses that pertain to your business.

18. Education Costs

Freelancer deductions can include the cost of education that helps you maintain or improve skills needed in your present work. This tax deduction also typically includes costs for books, supplies and even transportation.

19. Industry Events

Fees for attending conferences or conventions that are business related can typically be deducted.

Not only are the admission or registration fees often deductible, but all reasonable travel expenses accrued in order to attend the event may be deductible as well.

20. Promotional Materials

Tools used for marketing, advertising, and the general promotion of a business are considered deductible expenses. That includes advertising your product or service on social media or elsewhere.

Any expenses incurred in order to influence legislation (such as lobbying), however, are not deductible.

21. Business Membership Fees

While you generally can’t deduct dues or fees paid for memberships in clubs organized for recreational or social purposes, dues paid to join organizations that align with your specific business industry are usually considered deductible.

This includes organizations, such as boards of trade, chambers of commerce, and professional organizations (like bar associations and medical associations).

22. Business Travel Expenses

Travel costs that are associated with conducting business are considered valid income tax deductions, as long as they are ordinary and necessary and last more than one workday.

This can include flights, hotel stays, meals, getting around locally via bus/train/ride sharing services, even dry cleaning or laundry expenses while you’re away from home.

You may want to keep in mind that lavish and extravagant travel conditions generally do not qualify for deduction.

Also, day-to-day commuter expenses between home and business are not typically deductible.

23. Business Gifts

If you give a gift to a client or vendor as a thank you for conducting business with you, the cost of the gift is generally deductible up to $25 per person per year.

Extra costs such as engraving, packing, or shipping aren’t included in the $25 limit if they don’t add significant value to the gift.

24. Health Insurance

Self-employed individuals with qualifying policies are typically allowed to deduct premiums for health, dental, and long-term care for themselves and their families.

25. Retirement Plan Contributions

Just because you don’t work for a large company doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a tax-advantaged retirement plan. Indeed, freelancers often have even more options for saving this way.

Two self-employed retirement options you may want to consider: a traditional IRA (which allows you to contribute up to $6,500 per year in pre-tax dollars if you’re under 50, and up to $7,500 if you’re older) and a SEP IRA (which allows you to contribute up to 25% of your income for a maximum of $66,000 per year for tax year 2023).

Claiming Tax Deductions

Why is it important to claim tax deductions? They will help lower how much you pay in taxes and increase how much you keep to spend and save.

If, say, you earn $120,000 in a given year and can claim $25,000 in tax deductions, then you would only be paying taxes on $95,000. That can make a big difference in your daily financial life as well as your ability to build wealth and hit your financial goals.

Tips for Freelancer Tax Deductions

If you are a freelancer, there are a couple of smart guidelines to follow as you move through the tax year.

Keeping Records of Everything

As you earn, spend, and save as a freelancer, it’s important to make a budget and track where your money is going. Keeping records of how much you are paid from different clients or customers, what you are spending on your business, and when and where those expenses are incurred (and even how they are paid) can make a big difference when tax preparation time rolls around.

Also, if you ever need that information if audited, you will be glad you have those files.

Keeping Your Personal and Business Finances Separate

As you have learned, it’s important to keep your business and personal finances separate when you are self-employed. This means your workspace, your transportation and meal expenses, and the like.

This will have important implications at tax time. For instance, you may have to parse how much of your rent or mortgage and your utilities actually go towards your home-based business vs. personal use.

•   Opening a separate bank account for your business. It can be a smart move to keep your business finances separate from your personal to clarify your professional earning and spending. Many financial institutions offer business accounts to meet these needs. If you are just launching a side hustle or have a small, part-time gig, you might simply open up an additional checking and savings account to start.

Working With a Tax Professional

It’s not always easy to decipher the tax code as a freelancer or know which expenses qualify and to what expense.

Sometimes, working with a qualified tax professional can help. They are trained to know the ins and outs of the law and can guide you on correct tax filing.

The IRS offers guidelines for choosing a reputable tax professional that can be worth reading.

The Takeaway

As a freelancer, you can often lower your tax liability by deducting expenses that were incurred to operate your business.

There are a wide range of deductions you may be able to take, including some or all of your expenses for a home office, supplies for that home office, business events, advertising, self-employment taxes, and more.

In addition to managing your business income, you’ll also want to consider the full breadth of financial services you need, and compare which banking partner is best for your needs, whether personal or professional.

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FAQ

Do freelancers need to declare income?

Yes, if you are a freelancer, you need to declare your income and pay taxes on it. It is wise to pay quarterly estimated taxes to avoid a large tax bill and potential penalties at tax time.

How is income tax calculated for freelancers?

In addition to regular income tax, freelancers typically need to pay a self-employment tax of 15.3% to cover Social Security and Medicare taxes. Typically, employees and their employers split that bill. But self-employed people pay the whole thing.

What happens if you don’t file freelance taxes?

Not filing freelance taxes doesn’t mean you don’t owe them. Not paying taxes can mean you are still liable for the amount you owe, plus interest and penalties.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

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Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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2022 IRS Tax Refund Dates and Deadlines

2024 IRS Tax Refund Dates and Deadlines

According to the IRS, approximately 90% of tax refunds are issued in under 21 days. However, some tax returns require more attention, which can lengthen the process and push back your tax refund date.

The deadline for filing 2023 taxes is Monday April 15, 2024. If you request an extension, the deadline is Tuesday October 15, 2024. Keep reading to learn more about deadlines for 2023 tax returns, and how to track the progress of your tax refund.

Tax Refund Process, Explained

The process begins when you submit your return to the IRS. The IRS then breaks down the process into three steps: return received, refund approved, and refund sent.

If you file electronically, you should receive an email confirming that your return was received within 24 hours. Paper return filers will have to wait longer.

After the IRS processes your return and confirms the information, your refund will be approved and a tax refund date will be issued. This takes about 3 weeks for electronic filers. Taxpayers who file a paper return by mail will wait at least four weeks.

The last step is when your tax refund is sent out. For filers who provide direct deposit information, your refund should appear in your account almost immediately. Taxpayers who do not include their bank information will have to wait for a paper check to arrive by mail.

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Factors Impacting How Long a Tax Refund Takes

Several factors can affect the timing of your tax refund — including your financial organization skills and the accuracy of the information you provide. If you don’t receive your tax refund within 21 days, your return is likely being manually reviewed due to a mistake or complication.

The following factors can also affect your 2023 tax refund date.

How Early You File

Filing early is essential if you want to get your tax refund early. Ideally, you should be able to compile all your tax documents by the end of January. Forms such as W-2s, 1099-Rs, 1098-Es, and 1098s will provide the income information you need to file.

Filing early means submitting your tax return before the official deadline of Monday April 15, 2024, for your 2023 tax return. Since many taxpayers file their returns on the official deadline, filing early allows you to beat the rush.

Similarly, if you requested an extension, filing “early” means before the October deadline. The deadline for 2023 returns is Tuesday October 15, 2024. However, taxpayers can file anytime before October. This way, you’ll avoid the bottleneck that inevitably occurs on the deadline itself.

If You Are Claiming Certain Credits

Claiming certain credits on your tax return can push back your 2023 tax refund date. These include:

•   Earned Income Tax Credit

•   Additional Child Tax Credit

•   Injured Spouse Allocation

•   Child Tax Credit, if you claim the wrong amount

E-filed or Sent By Mail

Whether you do your own taxes by hand, use software to assist you, or hire an accountant or tax preparer, it’s best to opt for electronic filing. E-filed taxes are accepted by the IRS within a day or two, while mailed paper returns can take weeks to arrive.

Existing Government Debt

Some taxpayers owe the federal or state government due to unpaid child support, taxes from years past, or student loan payments. Taxpayers facing these issues will receive a reduced refund or none at all, and any refund can take longer than the standard 21-day timeframe after e-filing.

How to Track the Progress of Your Refund

If you’re like most taxpayers, it won’t take long until you start wondering where their tax refund is. Getting hold of a live IRS representative by phone is possible but challenging during tax season.

Fortunately, the IRS’s Refund Status tool provides updates on your 2024 tax refund date just 24 hours after you submit your 2023 taxes electronically.

The tool shows taxpayers one of three statuses: return received, refund approved, or refund sent. After the refund is approved, the IRS will give you a tax refund date. If you mailed your return, you’ll have to wait about four weeks for the tool to provide information on your refund.

What to Do Once Your Refund Arrives

How should I spend my tax refund? It’s a perennial question for taxpayers. Top choices include paying down debt, saving for a vacation, and investing. The important thing is to plan ahead so you don’t spend it all on frivolous or impulsive purchases.

One popular option is to treat your refund like regular income. You can budget the majority of the money for “needs,” by setting up an emergency fund or paying down your mortgage. The rest can be set aside for “wants,” such as a year’s worth of dining out.

An online budget planner can help you decide the appropriate percentages for needs and wants. Likewise, a debt pay off planner can show you how much sooner you’ll be debt-free after depositing some or all of your refund.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

What Happens If You Can’t File Income Taxes by the Deadline

Each year, taxpayers unable to file their return on time (usually mid April) can ask the IRS for an extension. The IRS’s Free File tool allows you to electronically submit a request to change your filing deadline to October.

Be aware that taxpayers who want an extension must make an educated guess about the taxes they owe and pay the IRS that amount.

How to File Form 4868 for a Tax Return Extension

Another way to file for an extension is to complete form 4868. You can submit the form electronically or by mail.

The Takeaway

While you cannot predict your exact tax refund date, filing electronically early in the tax season can help you get your refund faster. The IRS sends out most refunds within 21 days of receiving the return. The deadline for filing 2023 taxes is Monday April 15, 2024. If you request an extension, the deadline for filing a 2023 tax return is Tuesday October 15, 2024.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

See exactly how your money comes and goes at a glance.

FAQ

When should I expect my 2024 tax refund?

Typically, you can expect to receive your refund within 21 days of filing your return. However, mistakes and special tax credits can slow down the process.

What days does the IRS deposit refunds in 2024?

The IRS deposits refunds Monday through Friday, except for holidays.

How long does it take the IRS to approve a refund in 2024?

Most refunds are issued in 21 days or less from when the IRS accepts your return. However, if there are issues with the return, it may take longer.


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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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