How to Check on the Status of Your Tax Refund

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So you submitted your tax return, either on your own or using tax software, well ahead of the filing deadline only to still be waiting on your tax refund. What gives?

First, the IRS doesn’t issue refunds immediately upon the receipt of a tax return. In fact, the typical turnaround for returns filed electronically is three weeks. For paper returns, expect to wait six weeks.

The good news is that if your tax refund hasn’t yet hit your bank account or arrived in the mail, there’s an easy way to check its status. All you need to do is use the IRS’ “Where’s My Refund?” tool for a status update.

Keeping tabs on your tax refund

You may be relying on your tax refund to pay off some recent credit card debt. Or, you might just want that money to have more spending cash on hand. Either way, the IRS makes it easy to see where your refund stands. To use its “Where’s My Refund?” tool, you’ll need a few key pieces of information:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your tax-filing status
  • The exact amount of your expected refund, which you can copy over from your tax return

Keep in mind, though, it can take this tool some time to update with information. Generally, you’ll be able to get a status update on your refund after 24 hours from the time you submit an electronic return. If you file on paper, it could take up to four weeks for that tool to register information on your refund.

That’s why tax filers are often advised to submit an electronic return. Not only do these returns come with a generally faster refund turnaround time, but you can also check up on your refund sooner.

One thing you should know is that the IRS updates refund information daily. So the status of your refund could change from one day to the next.

What if your refund is late?

If it’s been 21 days or more since you submitted a tax return electronically, or more than 42 days since submitting a paper return, and you haven’t received your refund or gotten a clear status update on it, then it pays to call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and ask what’s going on. Also, in the course of using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, you may see an alert to contact the IRS, in which case you should do so.

Don’t panic if you see this notice. There are plenty of reasons why you might need to contact the agency, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in trouble or have done something wrong.

Along these lines, don’t panic if your tax refund is taking longer to process than expected. There are various reasons why the IRS might need more time to issue your refund, but if you’re concerned, you can always call to speak to a live person.

One thing you shouldn’t do, however, is file a second tax return because your refund is late. If the IRS sees a second return come in with your Social Security number, it will likely reject it because it’ll be flagged as a duplicate.

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