This article was last updated on January 23
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) generally receives over 140 million returns over the tax season with more than 95% of those returns filed electronically and over 80% of those returns resulting in refunds. For the last tax season the average refund was worth $2,800. This is slightly more than than last year’s average refund. More than 96 percent of refunds have been paid through direct deposit directly into taxpayer accounts. The tax agency still estimates that 9 out of 10 refunds will go out within 21 days from when a return is filed. But paper filed returns may take up to 7 weeks this year. See the latest IRS tax return processing schedule.
However there are always a number of tax payers who file their taxes on time, but are still waiting to receive their refund. This is likely due to internal processing delays at the IRS, stimulus and new legislation updates or due to inaccurately filed returns (so double check before filing!). This article provides options on where to get details on your refund status or delay.
|Some useful IRS Phone Numbers to Get More Information on Your Return and/or Refund|
|Talk To a Live Person|
(800) 829-0582 Ext. 652
Tax Help Line
for human? press 1 for English, then 0, 0 again
|Taxpayer Advocate Service Hotline
Turbo Tax Customer Service Line
H&R Block Customer Service Line
Finally, tax fraud has been a big issue this year and the IRS has warned tax payers and filers to be on the look out for fake calls/correspondence and advised tax payers to e-file their returns (see best e-file options/deals) since it is the quickest, safest and most accurate way to file and the fastest way to get a refund.
The IRS has also posted some very useful FAQ’s to refund related questions:
How quickly will I get my refund?
We issue most refunds in less than 21 calendar days.
Will I see a date for my refund right away?
Where’s My Refund? will not give you a refund date right away. We must first receive your tax return and then we have to process it and approve your refund. Where’s My Refund? will give you a personalized date once your refund is approved.
Will calling the IRS help me get my refund any faster?
Calling us will not speed up your refund. Our phone and walk-in representatives can only research the status of your refund if it has been 21 days or more since you filed electronically, more than 6 weeks since you mailed your paper return, or Where’s My Refund? directs you to contact us. If we need more information to process your tax return, we will contact you by mail. Otherwise Where’s My Refund? has the most up to date information available about your refund. Use the IRS2Go mobile app or use the Where’s My Refund? tool. Both are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How will I know if IRS received my tax return and if my refund is being processed?
Use the Where’s My Refund? tool to follow your tax return from receipt to issuance of your refund. While your tax return is being processed you can follow it through three stages: Return Received, Refund Approved and Refund Sent.
When can I start checking on my refund status?
You can start checking on the status of your return within 24 hours after we have received your electronically filed tax return or 4 weeks after you mail a paper tax return.
How often does Where’s My Refund? update?
Where’s My Refund? updates are made no more than once per day, usually at night. So there is no need to check more often.
What is happening when Where’s My Refund? shows the status of my refund is: Return Received?
This means we have your tax return and are processing it. Your personalized refund date will be available as soon as we finish processing your return and confirm that your refund has been approved. We issue most refunds in less than 21 days.
How long will it take for my status to change from Return Received to Refund Approved?
Sometimes your status may change from “Return Received” to “Refund Approved” in just a few days, but it could take longer and a date will not be provided until your refund has been approved. However, if Where’s My Refund? shows the status of your refund is: Return Received we have received your tax return and we are processing it.
Does Where’s My Refund always display my refund status with the tracker showing three steps?
No. In some cases the tracker graphic will not be shown if your return is being reviewed prior to step two: “Refund Approved,” and instead an explanation or instructions will be provided depending on the situation. This can happen even if you previously checked Where’s My Refund and it showed the status as “Return Received” along with the tracker. In these cases be assured that we have your tax return and we are processing it. Please follow the directions provided by Where’s My Refund?. Otherwise if we need more information we will contact you – usually by mail. If we send you a letter about your return, please follow the instructions in the letter as soon as possible.
Will ordering a transcript help you determine when you’ll get your refund?
No, a tax transcript will not help you determine when you will get your refund. This is among the common myths and misconceptions that are often repeated in social media. The codes listed on tax transcripts do not provide any early insight into when a refund will be issued. The best way to check on your refund is by visiting “Where’s My Refund?” While transcripts include a lot of detailed information regarding actions taken on your account, the codes do not mean the same thing for everyone and they do not necessarily reflect how any of these actions do or do not impact the amount or timing of your refund. IRS transcripts are best and most often used to validate past income and tax filing status for mortgage, student and small business loan applications and to help with tax preparation.
What is happening when Where’s My Refund? shows the status of my refund is: Refund Approved?
This means the IRS has processed your return and your refund has been approved. The IRS is now preparing to send your refund to your bank or directly to you in the mail if you requested a paper check. This status will tell you when your refund is scheduled to be sent to your bank and, if you elected the direct deposit option, a date by which it should be credited to your account. Please wait until it’s been five days from the date we sent the refund to your bank to check with your bank about the status of your refund. This time frame is provided to allow for the variations in how and when banks deposit funds.
What is happening when Where’s My Refund? shows the status of my tax return is: Refund Sent?
This means the IRS has sent your refund to your financial institution for direct deposit. This status will tell you when your refund was sent to your bank. It may take your financial institution 1 – 5 days to deposit the funds into your account. Please wait until it’s been five days from the date we sent the refund to your bank to check with your bank about the status of your refund. This time frame is provided to allow for the variations in how and when banks deposit funds. If you requested a paper check this means your check has been mailed. It could take several weeks for your check to arrive in the mail.
Why is my refund different than the amount reflected on the tax return I filed?
If you owe past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support, or certain federal nontax debts, such as student loans, all or part of your refund may be used (offset) to pay the past-due amount. Offsets for federal taxes are made by the IRS. All other offsets are made by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Services (BFS)(Formerly the Financial Management Service or FMS). For federal tax offsets, you will receive a notice from the IRS. For all other offsets, you will receive a notice from BFS. To find out if you may have an offset or if you have any questions about it, contact the agency to which you owe the debt. See Tax Topic 203 for more information about refund offsets.
Another reason your refund amount may be different is if we made changes to your tax return that changed your refund amount. In this case you will get a notice in the mail from us explaining the changes. These reasons will be reflected in Where’s My Refund if they apply to your refund.
What if I am counting on my refund for something important? Can I expect to receive it on time?
Be careful not to count on getting your refund by a certain date to make major purchases or pay other financial obligations. Many different factors can affect the timing of your refund after we receive it for processing. Even though we issue most refunds in less than 21 days, it’s possible your tax return may require additional review and take longer. Also, if you are anticipating a refund, take into consideration the time it takes for your financial institution to post the refund to your account, or for mail delivery.
It’s been longer than 21 days since the IRS received my return and I have not gotten my refund. Why?
We work hard to issue refunds as quickly as possible, but some tax returns take longer to process than others for many reasons, including when a return:
- includes errors,
- is incomplete,
- needs further review,
- is impacted by identity theft or fraud,
- includes Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which could take up to 14 weeks to process.
If we need more information to process your tax return, we will contact you by mail.
IRS representatives can only research the status of your return if it’s been 21 days or more since you filed electronically, more than six weeks since you mailed your paper return, or if Where’s My Refund? directs you to contact us. Our general telephone number is 1-800-829-1040. However, given our limited resources, our phone lines are going to be extremely busy this year – and there will frequently be extensive wait times.
My return included a request for a refund of tax withheld on a Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding. When can I expect my refund?
If you requested a refund of tax withheld on a Form 1042-S Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding by filing a Form 1040NR U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, we will need additional time to process the return. Please allow up to 6 months from the original due date of the 1040NR return or the date you actually filed the 1040NR, whichever is later to receive any refund due.