Where's My Tax Refund?

How to Track Down Your Refund Check

Where's My Tax Refund?
April 23, 2016

You have bought an expensive new toy in expectation of your tax refund, and are now desperately waiting for the refund to arrive before the repo man and his large friend Vito come to visit. How can you find out the status of your refund at any time to estimate whether you need to make a run for it?

A more likely scenario is that you are just curious about your refund, and would like to check the status periodically.

In either case, regardless of who prepared your taxes, you need to go through the IRS website to get your answer. Under the Refunds tab at www.irs.gov, you can select the “Where’s My Tax Refund?” link and find out the latest on your return. The site is only updated once every 24 hours and is also available in Spanish.

If you e-filed, you can check the status within 24 hours after the submission, but on a traditional paper return, you will have to wait four weeks before checking. This process cannot be accelerated through the IRS or any third-party tax preparers.

When you are able to check, you will need to enter your Social Security number, your filing status, and the exact refund amount rounded up to the whole dollar. A status bar will appear showing that your return is at one of three possible stages:

  • Return Received – The IRS has received your return and is still in the review process.

  • Refund Approved – Your tax return has been reviewed and approved. The agency is in the process of sending you a check, or direct depositing your refund if you chose that method. When the refund has been approved, you should see an expected date for direct deposit or for your check to be mailed.

  • Refund Sent – The refund is en route to you. Checks may take a few weeks to arrive. For direct deposit, allow five working days for the bank deposit to clear before following up with the IRS.

The IRS website states that typical refunds take less than 21 calendar days. That may change with the complications of the Affordable Care Act, but so far, there is not enough data to say anything will be different in 2016.

If your return is still in the review process prior to approval, you may see the status bar replaced with an explanation or a set of instructions to follow. There is no need to panic – this does not imply an audit is on the way – but it does mean that there is some issue to clear up. It may be as simple as a math error or listing of an incorrect address. If the IRS needs more information, they will generally follow up via a letter.

The IRS even allows mobile options. The IRS2Go app is available for both Apple and Android systems. Remember that you will be entering your Social Security number, so make sure that you are on a secure wireless site before proceeding.

Can you go old school and call the IRS hotline? Certainly, you can, but do not expect an answer. Wait times are always long, and the IRS acknowledges that many calls are going unanswered.

If you filed an amended return, there is a separate link titled “Where’s My Amended Return?” that operates in the same fashion as “Where’s My Refund?”

Next time, wait until you have the check in hand before making your refund-related purchases. Nobody enjoys dealing with Vito, and if you have already spent your refund, you probably cannot afford plane tickets out of town.


Photo ©iStock.com/igorvorobyov

  Conversation   |   20 Comments

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Stokes | 04.01.16 @ 14:56
I love the where's my refund app. I file early so my refund gets back to me quicker and I just check it occasionally.
Sarah | 04.01.16 @ 14:57
I love the site letting me check on it thru the IRS.... I'm impatient... I overcheck it though haha
Erin | 04.01.16 @ 14:57
Good information to have. I'm fairly patient when it comes to the returns, but it's nice to know there is a way to keep up with the entire process to have an idea of when it will be coming, if you're lucky enough to get one.
Carla Truett | 04.01.16 @ 14:57
I used this app a lot this year. Things have come a long way since we use to just watch the mailbox.
Irene | 04.01.16 @ 14:59
Great info I didn't know I could check to see why my refund is taking so long
trish | 04.01.16 @ 15:05
I have never heard of this app but will definitely use it when our account files our taxes!
Elaine | 04.01.16 @ 15:07
Wow never knew there was an app. How exciting!
Steffanie | 04.01.16 @ 15:22
What a great app. Very glad its available.
brittany.martinez530 | 04.01.16 @ 15:23
I have a friend who submitted all his forms back in Feb and is STILL waiting for his refund.
Kyle | 04.01.16 @ 15:25
I think the fact that we're at a point where we can check apps and technology stuff to track tax refunds shows just how far we have come. it's great.
Kailie | 04.01.16 @ 15:27
The "where's my refund" app is great. I should have mine any day now and I CANNOT wait.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 04.01.16 @ 15:49
Always a good idea to track and than purchase I think no need for any surprises to ruin your new purchase desicion
Carla Truett | 04.21.16 @ 13:31
We used this site to track our refund this year and it was great knowing when to expect it.
Erin | 04.21.16 @ 13:35
We used this process to keep track of out refund. It worked out really well and was simple to do!
Elaine | 04.21.16 @ 13:38
This is a great idea to be able to check on the refund. Many get so much back that they can get nervous if it is gone for too long.
Kamie | 04.21.16 @ 13:38
The "where's my refund" app is a great tool for when you are obsessed with knowing where you money is. I am never patient with my refund, I want it as soon as I file it.
brittany.martinez530 | 04.21.16 @ 13:39
I love this app so much. I got my refund last week and was able to track it the whole time.
Kailie | 04.21.16 @ 13:41
This is wonderful and a great app. I didn't know this even existed. I think it's pretty cool that govt. officers and services are getting involved more and more with technology.
Christina | 04.21.16 @ 13:44
Great information to have! I've not gotten a refund for several years, but if I do get lucky enough to in the future, I will definitely be glad to have this way to find out when to expect it!
Wanda Langley | 04.21.16 @ 17:49
I have not had a refund for several years and think I would Bank it if I did get one. I will not spend if I do not have. I never know what may come up needing my Car fixed or an appliance replaced.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.07.16 @ 22:26
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