7. Mail your return

A completed return calling for a refund that just sits on your desk is the IRS' idea of heaven. It's your money. Don't leave it with the IRS. It's bad enough that they've held it all year without paying you any interest on your excess payment. Don't compound the pain by delaying the mailing.

Of course, the best way to speed up your return is to e-file. As of the end of April 2012, 83.4% of individual tax returns were e-filed, according to the IRS. For 2011, more than 79% of all individual tax returns filed were e-filed. That was up from 70% in 2010. In June 2011, the IRS reached a milestone with 1 billion e-filed tax returns since the inception of the program.

The IRS appreciates the cost savings and claims it expedites your refund. The IRS is offering what it bills as a free e-filing service. It's not quite free. You may still have to pay a "transmitter" to convert your return into IRS code and send it on.

In either case, electing a direct deposit of your refund will always get it into your hands faster than snail mail.

You can even split your direct deposit into three different accounts, like a checking, savings and retirement account.

Complete lines 74(b), (c) and (d) of your Form 1040, and, coupled with an e-filed return, in theory you could have your refund in your bank account in as little as 24 hours. In practice, it usually takes about 10 days.

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The IRS now has a Web tool for tracking refunds that can tell you whether the IRS received your return and whether your refund was processed and sent to you.

You can get more information on the refund tool on the IRS website here. The agency also has a refund-assistance line: 1-800-829-1954.