How to Check Your IRS Refunds

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

You’ve completed the paperwork and submitted your taxes electronically or through the mail. What happens next? Read on for information on how to check the status of your refund and when to contact the IRS for more information.

1 - How soon can I check the status of my tax refund? Once you’ve filed your return, you’ll be able to use the IRS tool called “Where’s My Refund?”. This form requires the following information from you:

1)     Your social security or individual taxpayer identification number (SSN/ITIN)

2)     Your filing status: Single, Married (either joint or separate), or Widowed. This information can be found at the top of a standard 1040 form.

3)     The exact amount of your return, which can be found on Line 20a of the 1040 form.

2 - How soon can I see the status of my return? Keep in mind that the IRS needs to receive your taxes and begin processing them before the tool will be useful. Wait at least one full day after e-filing or 4 weeks after mailing before logging in to the tool.

If you attempt to use the portal before they have begun reviewing your information, you’ll receive a message asking you to return to the page at a later date. 3 - What should I expect once I’ve sent the IRS my return? After the IRS has received your return, there are three stages of the process that must be completed. You can track your return and refund through each stage on the “Where’s My Refund?” tool.

  1. Return Received. This first stage means that you have successfully submitted your e-filing or paperwork, and the review is underway. The refund tool states that you can expect your refund to be deposited or mailed after 21 calendar days from the day the IRS received your return.

  2. Refund Approved. Your return reaches the second stage once the IRS has finished processed and approved your filing. This usually occurs after 21 days from the date of receipt of your return. A message appears in the refund-tracking tool that displays the expected date of your refund check or bank transfer.

  3. Return Sent. Once the IRS has sent out your refund, they will update the tracking tool. They will include the payment date, amount of you will receive, and any reductions you might see—if, for example, you owed back taxes. You can expect to receive an electronic refund within 1 to 5 business days, while a mailed check may take up to 4 weeks to arrive.

4 -When will my refund to be ready? The date that you receive your refund can vary from person to person and year to year. Typically, most people who e-file their return will receive a refund in less than three weeks. Those individuals who submit a paper tax return often receive a check within six weeks.

However, these estimates are not a guarantee. Your return may need additional review or adjustments. Bank transfers and mailing times will also differ on a case-by-case basis. Do not depend on receiving your refund on a particular date. Remember to be patient and track your status with the IRS tool.

5 - Is it helpful to refresh the page?

No, it is not. The IRS only updates the “Where’s My Refund?” page once per day, usually in the evening. The site also undergoes routine maintenance every Monday from 12 AM to 3 AM EST.

6 - Can calling the IRS result in faster processing of my tax return and refund?

No, unfortunately it won’t. It can be tempting to call and try to press for a faster refund, but IRS telephone representatives can see your refund status—nothing more. Furthermore, they can only look up that status after the 21 days (e-file) or 6 weeks (mailed return). If it is past the expected timeframe, you can call the IRS toll-free refund line: 1 (800) 829-1954.

7 - How soon should I contact the IRS if I filed an amended tax return? Amended returns require longer review time. In most cases, it can take up to 21 days for processing to begin, and 16 weeks or more for processing to be completed. It may occur quicker than that, but the timeline will depend on the adjustments your return requires.

You can track your filing status and refund through the “Where’s My Amended Return?” feature on the IRS website. This tool will also display which stage your amended return is undergoing.

  1. Received. This status is assigned once the IRS has received your amended filing.

  2. Adjusted. Once the IRS makes an adjustment, you may see a balance, refund, or no change in your tax account.

  3. Completed. This final stage means that IRS has completed processing. You can expect to receive a packet in the mail with all related information to your case. Once you’ve mailed your amended return, wait three weeks for it to undergo the first stage of review. If it’s been longer than 21 days since the date of mailing, call the toll-free IRS automated line at: 1 (866) 464-2050.

8 - Where can I get more information if I don’t want to use the internet? If you don’t have access to the internet, you can use the IRS toll-free Refund Hotline instead. The number is: 1 (800) 829-1954. To access information on your return, you’ll need three pieces of information.

  1. Your social security or individual taxpayer identification number (SSN/ITIN)

  2. Your filing status: Single, Married (either joint or separate returns), or Widowed. This information can be found above your name on a standard 1040 form.

  3. The exact amount of your return, which can be found on Line 20a of the 1040 form.

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