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Where's My Refund - How to Track Your Tax Refund (Quickly and Easily)

FinanceBuzz logo FinanceBuzz 1/13/2022 Christy Rakoczy
© Antonioguillem/Adobe

Many Americans receive a hefty tax refund and can use this money to pay bills, invest, or accomplish other financial goals. If you're eager to get your hands on the cash the IRS owes you, you may be wondering, where's my tax refund?

Certain IRS tools can help you learn more about your tax refund status. This step-by-step guide will show you what tools are available and how to use them effectively.

How to use the IRS Where's My Refund tool?

The IRS makes it very easy to figure out where your federal tax refund is by providing a simple tool aptly named the "Where's My Refund" tool. This tool allows you to check your refund status online.

You can find this tool on the IRS website and use it to begin tracking the status of your refund once at least 24 hours have passed since the time you submitted an e-filed return. If you submitted your tax return via mail, you will be able to use the "Where's My Refund" tool at least four weeks after you've mailed in your return.

In order to use the IRS tool, you will need some simple information, including:

  • Your tax filing status
  • Your Social Security number (SSN)
  • The exact amount of the refund you claimed when you submitted your tax forms. You can find this on your 1040 form.

The "Where's My Refund" tool updates overnight. Once you have checked it for the day, you'll need to wait to get more updated information.

To use this tool to check the status of your income tax refund, you'll need to take the following steps:

1. Click on the button labeled "Check My Refund" status

On the "Where's My Refund" page, you will see a blue button labeled "Check My Refund" status in a box on the right side of the page.

Once you have clicked on the button, a pop-up window will appear indicating that "This U.S. Government System is for Authorized Use Only!" You will need to click OK and confirm your consent to "monitoring, interception, recording, reading, copying, or capturing by authorized personnel of all activities."

You will not be able to move forward until you have selected "OK" on the pop-up window.

2. Input the required information

Once you've opened the page to request information on your refund status, there are three questions you must answer. You must provide:

  • Your Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). Use the SSN or ITIN you included on the tax return you are checking the status of.
  • Your filing status. You will have a choice of single, married-filing joint return, married-filing separate return, head of household, or qualifying widow(er). Choose the status you selected on the tax return you submitted.
  • The refund amount: You must provide the whole dollar amount to get the correct response.

3. Receive a response

If you have provided the correct information, you will see one of three status settings. The Where's My Refund tool will return one of the following messages:

  • Return received: This means the IRS has received your tax forms and is reviewing them and moving toward issuing your refund.
  • Refund approved: This status indicates your tax return has been processed. The IRS has reviewed it and determined you do, in fact, get a refund and will be moving forward with sending your money.
  • Refund sent: This means the IRS has processed your refund and sent the money via the method chosen on your tax return. This could include directly depositing your refund or sending it as a paper check via the mail.

The response relates to the status of the refund that is owed to you based on the most recent tax return you submitted.

How to track an amended return

If you filed an amended return, you will need to go through a different process than the standard "Where's My Refund" tool. The IRS has a separate website called "Where's My Amended Return." To use it, visit the site and click on the blue button labeled "Amended Return Status."

You will need some of the same basic information to use this tool, including your Social Security number and date of birth. You will also need to provide your zip code.

It can take up to three weeks after you have submitted your amended return for it to show up in the IRS system, and it can take up to 16 weeks for it to be processed.

How to use the IRS2Go app to track a refund

If you are primarily a mobile device user, you may prefer to use the IRS2Go app to check your refund status. The IRS2Go mobile app is available from the following providers:

You can check your refund status within 24 hours of e-filing or four weeks after mailing a paper return. The process is basically the same as using the mobile website and involves completing a simple form providing your personal information.

When to expect your IRS refund

Figuring out how to manage your money can be complicated, but an IRS refund can help by providing an influx of cash. That's why it's helpful to know when your refund will arrive. However, how quickly you get your tax refund will depend on various factors, including the method you used to file your income tax return and the processing time involved.

The IRS issues more than 90% of all refunds within 21 days or less. However, processing your refund will take longer if you claimed either the earned income tax credit (EITC) or the additional child tax credit (ACTC). The law requires the IRS to delay the distribution of refunds until at least February 15 for taxpayers who claim these credits.

If you've requested a refund check via mail, the IRS indicates it could take six to eight weeks for your refund to be sent. If you have requested your refund via direct deposit, it should be sent to your bank account within the 21-day window in most cases, although it may take a few days for your bank to process it and post it to your account.

How to get your refund quicker

If you want to get your refund as quickly as possible, you should e-file your return and request the money be sent via direct deposit.

The IRS processes e-filed returns more quickly than paper returns, and direct deposits are sent more quickly than mailed refunds.

The best tax software makes submitting your returns and requesting your refund quick and easy.

FAQs

Can you call the IRS to check on a refund?

The IRS instructs taxpayers not to call them to check on a refund unless the agency's online "Where's My Refund" tool directs you to contact them via phone. As the IRS makes clear, the representatives on the phone won't be able to provide any additional information other than what you can find online unless you are specifically directed to call them.

Why is my federal refund still processing?

Your federal tax return may still be processing if not enough time has passed since you submitted it. You should allow 21 days for e-filed returns and six weeks for paper returns. If more time has passed, there are a number of reasons why some tax returns take longer than others to process.

The processing of your return may be delayed if:

  • The return has errors
  • The information provided is not complete
  • The IRS saw something on the return that triggered a further review
  • Identity theft or fraud affected your return
  • You've claimed the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit
  • Your return included Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation

Is the IRS behind on tax returns?

The IRS has indicated there are COVID processing delays. In some cases, it is taking longer than the normal time to issue refunds for 2020 returns submitted during the 2021 filing season. The Treasury Department has also warned that services could be delayed for the 2022 filing season, affecting your 2021 taxes due to budget constraints and pandemic-related concerns.

Bottom line

The 2022 tax season may be another frenzied one for the IRS, which means you may need to be especially vigilant in checking on the status of your refund if you are eager to get the money ASAP. The IRS online tools make it easy to see if the IRS has processed and sent your return, so be sure to make full use of them to keep tabs on the cash that Uncle Sam owes you.

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

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