On my post covering the IRS Refund Cycle Schedule I saw a lot of comments around the refund processing status’ on the IRS’ Where is My Refund (WMR) website or on the IRS2Go mobile app. Clearly there is a lot of confusion as people anxiously await their refunds and are unclear of how the IRS was processing their returns.
In fact if you search tax forums one of the most common questions are around differences between the 3 WMR status’ which are Return Received, Refund (Return) Approved and Refund Sent. The tracker is updated daily (~3AM EST) so there is no need to constantly check it.
You can start using the WMR website or IRS2Go app to start checking on the status of your return 24 hours after the IRS receives your e-filed return or 2 to 3 weeks after you mail a paper return.
As the IRS processes your return it will progress through the 3 stages and provide you information (IRS error codes) on your tax refund processing and/or if you need to take actions like providing more information or calling the IRS.
Here are more details on each status and what each one means:
WMR Status Bar 1: Return Received
This status is is the same as “Return Accepted by the IRS.” This means that your tax return has passed initial screens by the IRS covering rudimentary fraud checks, verifying your SSN and ensuring no obvious red flags on your return.
Your tax return will remain in this status while the IRS processes it in more detail to ensure it is compliant and the refund amount is accurate.
Your refund can remain in the status for a while if it is complex or the IRS feels further information is needed. The IRS is however saying it processes most returns in 21 days if your return is not flagged for further review.
There is no need to follow-up with the IRS if the WMR tool shows the status of Return Received. If this status is showing, the IRS is processing your return and further calls or letters won’t speed up the process.
There is also no status of “under review” so sometimes your status may be stuck in this status (or even disappear as discussed below) while the IRS completes its reviews
WMR Status Bar 2: Refund Approved
This status will appear if your tax return checks out and and your return has been approved for payout by direct deposit or check. A personalized refund date will be provided and the WMR status will now be Refund Approved. If you elected the direct deposit (DD) option for your refund, you will get a date by which it should be credited to your account.
While the IRS does promise that it will process most returns in under 21 days, it could take longer if complications come up. This delay is what frustrates most tax payers as the IRS does at times provide limited information if errors in your return are spotted.
While some information is provided on WMR and IRS2Go, the IRS will generally mail you for further detailed information. You can also check your IRS tax transcript for details. This could add days, weeks and even months if lots of additional information is need. So ensure your tax return is as accurate when filing.
WMR Status Bar 3: Refund Sent
As the name implies means the IRS has sent your refund to your nominated bank account(s). It will give you a specific date the refund was sent. Direct Deposit payment are generally processed within 5 days. I.e. the money will be in your bank available for withdrawal within 5 days of the refund sent date.
You should only contact your bank or financial institution if you have not received your return after 5 days of the IRS refund sent date.
Note that you may get another message below the refund deposit/credit details saying your refund was reduced or offset (as discussed in the sections below). You will get a tax code notice for why this happened and options to appeal. But the IRS will still send you what they have deemed approved.
If you requested a paper check this means your check has been mailed and could take 10+ days for you to receive this via mail. It could take weeks or months if your mailing address is outside the US.
When do IRS2Go/WMR & Transcript Get Updated For Tax Return and Refund Processing?
The WMR website and IRS2Go mobile app can update any day of the week. However, major updates on daily accounts are usually Wednesday; and major updates on weekly accounts are usually Saturday.
You can see if your IRS account is daily or weekly in this article. This will generally show which batch or cycle your return and refund (if applicable) is being processed in the IRS master file (IMF). The IRS has older systems and does most of its processing in “batches” or “cycles.”
So knowing which one you are in can given you some guidance on where your return processing and WMR/IRS2Go updates are likely to happen.
WMR and IRS2Go are however down for scheduled system maintenance on Sunday and Monday nights per the screenshot below. However during the peak of tax season it is not uncommon to see longer outages.
Further when too many users are on or attempting to access the refund trackers, the IRS can restrict access to these tools and people sometimes see the message that system cannot verify their identity. They may also see missing status bars because of this, as discussed in the next section below.
IRS batch processing generally takes place 12am to 3am (EST) and refund direct deposit processing takes 3:30am to 6:00am (EST) – most nights, expect Sundays.
Similar to WMR and IRS2Go your free IRS Tax transcript can get update any day of the week. However, major updates on daily account are generally on Tuesdays; and mass updates on weekly accounts are usually on Fridays. This lines up with the cycle codes as discussed in this video.
Help! My WMR status bars have disappeared
Per the IRS, the WMR tracker graphic may disappear or not be shown if your return is still processing (TC 152) or falls under IRS review after it is received (Status Bar 1: Return Received) because additional information is needed for your return.
The IRS still has your return but things are essentially on hold until the IRS gets the additional information from you to continue processing your return .
You will either get directions on WMR or IRS2Go or the IRS will provide contact information. Follow the provided instructions and return any additional information ASAP to get your potential refund and reduce any further delays.
An explanation or instructions (see IRS Tax or error codes) may be provided on your transcript, ahead of WMR/IRS 2Go updating in some instance. This can happen even if you previously checked WMR and it showed the status as “Return Received.”
However it is not uncommon to also have “N/A” on your transcript and see no or disappearing bars on WMR/IRS2Go. In this case you will just need to wait for IRS to finish their processing.
Talk to your accountant, tax advocate or tax professional if you are not clear on what the IRS is asking for.
How far back does the WMR tool go for checking my refund status?
The IRS recently made enhancements to the Where is My Refund tool (and IRS2Go mobile application) that allows taxpayers to check the status of their refund for the current tax year and two previous years. This is helpful for tax payers still waiting on past year tax returns to be processed.
Originally it was only limited to the refund processing status of the current tax year, with tax transcripts being the source for prior years.
Tax filers will need their SSN or ITIN, filing status and expected refund amount from the original filed tax return
for the tax year they’re checking.
Note that this multi-year status checking enhancement is only for the online WMR tool. Those calling the refund hotline are still limited to inquiring about the current year’s tax return.
Why is my Refund Status Showing a Reduced Refund Message (Code 203 or 570)
One thing many tax payers see during their tax refund processing is a message that that refund has been approved for direct deposit (WMR status = Refund Sent), but that it has been reduced, per the screenshot below.
This message just means your refund has been garnished or reduced for a government (BFS) determined reason (tax offset). This is generally because you owe money to the federal government because of a delinquent debt – e.g. overpaid unemployment, unpaid past year tax obligations etc.
Your return can also be held up and reduced if you see Tax Code 570 on your transcript. This code means your return is on hold due due to additional verification which may or may not have a monetary impact. No further processing or refund payment can be made until this hold is lifted following additional IRS processing.
Using my IRS Transcript and Cycle code to get more details on refund processing status
The lack of progress or details in the WMR or IRS2Go app has made some tax filers use their IRS tax transcript (free from your IRS account) to get more details on their return/refund processing status. Your transcript which shows various tax processing codes and a “cycle code.”
This is an eight digit number that indicates when your tax return posted to the IRS Master File (IMF). The cycle code is updated regularly and when combined with the tax topic code, can provide insight into your tax refund status, processing stages and potential direct deposit date. You can see a deeper discussion in this article.
Reader Feedback on IRS Delays (with some help)
Here a sampling of some comments and responses from readers of this site on this topic and WMR refund status/processing:
(From Dorothy) We wait and wait all year long then bam we file we get a big refund and we are told 10 to 21 days and what do we do. We sit here looking at our refund tracker we log on to WMR site and we check wmr2go we just keep watching and waiting for our Money.
Then just when we are not looking something changes meaning our bars move and we check our accounts and there’s our Money. But here’s what bugs me the most. The IRS is looking at us and sees we owe them and way before we get notice or told what to do next.
They are saying NOW you must pay. What if we made them WAIT. Or when a letter comes we send it back with a response we will get back to you in 5 to 10 days. Wonder what they would think. But here’s for all of us ITS OUR MONEY AND WE WANT IT NOW
(From Brandi on her WMR experience) To those who have been told that your returns are under review I e-filed on Jan 5th last year but of course it wasn’t sent to IRS until Jan 20th (when IRS starts accepting returns). It was accepted the next day.
My bars on WMR disappeared after about about a week and have not reappeared since. I was informed on 2/10 that my return went under review on 2/2 and to expect it in 6-8 weeks. On 2/24 I received a [IRS] letter stating that I needed to verify my identity before my return could be processed further. I called and sat on hold for 1hr 45 min before talking to a person.
I verified my name, social security number, birthdate, address, fathers name, child’s birthdate, child’s social security number and the total amount of my return. By the way, none of my personal info has changed in the last 10 years. I was then told that my return would now be returned to the processing department to be completed and to expect it within 6 weeks from that day.
Yes, 6 more weeks from the date i verified my information. Unless there is some other problem, then i will be contacted by mail to provide whatever else is needed. This was the worse case scenario she said but was preparing me just in case. I doubt it will be 6 more weeks or that they will need anything else but I am so upset that I have been waiting since Jan 20th and it took over one month just to receive a letter to verify info that has not changed in over 10 years.
Now I’m waiting 6 more weeks for my money. I know everyone’s situation is different but if you have been waiting a while or were told yours is under review or you need to do identity verification, this is possibly what you could expect to happen with your return.
Bottom line just don’t depend on the IRS to be fast this year. Some are getting their returns quick and then there are some like myself that will be waiting much longer!
(From Mary Elizabeth) I understand that this is a stressful situation. My own bars had disappeared for six days now while I was accepted on the 21st. I am due a refund according to Turbotax by 2/11. The number and extension provided below has personally helped me through my own tax problems, as well as my friends and loved ones; while the general or common number gives millions of people the “automated voice” and “runaround”.
If someone to reach a real person in the IRS office, do the following:
1) First, make sure the time is at 7amEST in the morning. (Note: this is the perfect time to reach someone to avoid LONG wait times!)
2) Call 1-800-829-0582 and press extension 633 (Don’t worry, this department is the quickest and will still research your situation to give you a definite answer)
3) Good Luck
Some of these examples are likely what you are facing so hopefully the answers here can help you. Please leave a comment below if you need more feedback or want to share your experience.
YouTube Videos on IRS Refund Processing Delays
Useful IRS numbers for refund questions
|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