Tax Time Guide: ‘Where’s My Refund?’

April 10, 2018

Answers to commonly asked questions

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today said that most tax refunds are issued in less than 21 days, although some may take longer. As of March 16, the IRS had already issued more than 61 million refunds averaging $2,960. Taxpayers can check the status of their refund online at IRS.gov by visiting the “Where’s My Refund?” tool or through the IRS2Go mobile app.

This is the last in a series of nine IRS tips called the Tax Time Guide. The guide is designed to help taxpayers as they near the April 17 tax filing deadline.

There are many factors that can affect the timing of a tax refund. Some tax returns take longer to process because the return includes errors or is incomplete, is affected by identity theft or fraud or, in general, needs further review. The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail if more information is needed to process a return. Once a refund has been approved the time it takes a bank to post the refund to an account can also have an impact. If requesting a paper refund check, taxpayers should also take into consideration the time it takes for it to arrive in the mail.

Taxpayers can use “Where’s My Refund?” to start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS receives an e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayers mailed a paper return. The tool has a tracker that displays progress through three phases: (1) Return Received; (2) Refund Approved; and (3) Refund Sent.

Those who use “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov or the IRS2Go app must have information from their current tax return to access their information.

The IRS updates “Where’s My Refund?” once a day, usually overnight. Rather than calling the IRS and waiting on hold or ordering a tax transcript, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the website and use the tool. The information available online is the same information available to IRS telephone assistors.

Some taxpayers believe they can learn about the status of their refund by ordering a tax transcript. The IRS notes that the information on a transcript does not necessarily reflect the amount or timing of a refund. While taxpayers can use a transcript for help with tax preparation and to validate past income and tax filing status for certain loan applications, they should use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool to check the status of their refund.

The use of e-file and direct deposit continue to be the fastest and safest way to file an accurate return and receive a tax refund. More than four out of five tax returns are expected to be filed electronically, with a similar proportion of refunds issued through direct deposit.


Where is my Tax Refund?

March 15, 2017

Use the “Where’s My Refund?” Tool

Taxpayers who have not yet received their income tax refunds can use “Where’s My Refund?” app to check the status. Find it on IRS.gov or the free IRS mobile app IRS2Go.

Here are five tips to know about “Where’s My Refund?”:

  1. Some Refunds Delayed. Beginning in 2017, certain taxpayers will get their refunds later. By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds before February 15 for any tax return claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The IRS must hold the entire refund, not just the part related to the EITC or ACTC. The IRS began releasing delayed 2016 EITC and ACTC refunds on February 15.

These refunds likely won’t arrive in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of February 27. This is true as long as there are no processing issues with the tax return and the taxpayer chose direct deposit. Banking and financial systems need time to process deposits, which can take several days.

Where’s My Refund? will be updated on February 18 for the vast majority of early filers who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. Before February 18, some taxpayers may see a projected date or a message that indicates the IRS is processing their return. “Where’s My Refund?” remains the best way to check the status of a refund.

  1. Timely Access. Information will normally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return, or four weeks for a paper return. The system updates once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there is no need to check more often.
  2. Gather Basic Information. Taxpayers should have their Social Security number, filing status and exact refund amount when using “Where’s My Refund?”. Those without Internet access can call 800-829-1954 anytime, to access the audio version of this tool.
  3. What to Expect. “Where’s My Refund?” includes a tracker that displays progress through three stages: Return Received, Refund Approved and Refund Sent. When the IRS processes a tax return and approves the refund, taxpayers can see their expected refund date. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, tax returns may need further review and take longer.
  4. When to Call: Taxpayers should call the IRS to check on a refund only when:
  • it has been 21 days or more since they e-filed,
  • more than six weeks since the return was mailed,
  • the “Where’s My Refund?” tool directs them to contact IRS.

A tax transcript will not help taxpayers find out when they will get their refund. The IRS notes that the information on a transcript does not necessarily reflect the amount or timing of a refund. While taxpayers can use a transcript to validate past income and tax filing status for mortgage, student and small business loan applications, and to help with tax preparation they should use “Where’s My Refund?” to check the status of their refund.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.


As Holidays Approach, IRS Reminds Taxpayers of Refund Delays in 2017

November 23, 2016

As the holidays approach, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers to remember that a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds until mid-February in 2017 for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. In addition, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards put in place by the IRS and the states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.

Some Refunds Delayed in 2017

Beginning in 2017, a new law approved by Congress requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the EITC or the ACTC until mid-February. The IRS must hold the entire refund – even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC — until at least Feb. 15. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

”This is an important change as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don’t want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years.”

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do. Even though the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, the IRS reminds taxpayers that most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days, after being accepted for processing by the IRS. The Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app remains the best way to get this status of a refund.

Stronger Security Filters and Tax Refund Processing

As the IRS steps up its efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud through its many processing filters, legitimate refund returns sometimes get delayed during the review process. While the IRS is working diligently to stop the issuance of fraudulent refunds, it also remains focused on releasing legitimate refunds as quickly as possible.

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and industry partners finalized plans for 2017 to improve identity theft protections for individual and business taxpayers. This comes after making significant inroads this year against fraudulent returns. Additional safeguards will be set in place for the upcoming 2017 filing season.

The IRS and its partners saw a marked improvement in the battle against identity theft in 2016. This is highlighted by the number of new people reporting stolen identities on federal tax returns falling by more than 50 percent, with nearly 275,000 fewer victims compared to a year ago.

“These increased security screenings are invisible to most taxpayers,” Koskinen said. “But we want people to be aware we are taking additional steps to protect taxpayers from identity theft, and that sometimes means the real taxpayers face a slight delay in their refunds.”


Use IRS Online Tools to Get Year-Round Tax Help

August 11, 2014

Getting year-round tax help from the IRS is easier than ever before. The IRS website has many online tools that you can use to get the service you need. For example, with IRS.gov you can e-file your tax return for free, easily check the status of your refund, or get many of your tax questions answered. Here are some of the online tools that the IRS offers to make filing your taxes less taxing:

  • IRS Free File.  You can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free. Free File will do much of the work for you with brand-name tax software or Fillable Forms. If you still need to file your 2013 tax return, Free File is available through Oct. 15. The only way to use IRS Free File is through the IRS website.
  • Where’s My Refund?  Checking the status of your tax refund is easy when you use Where’s My Refund? You can also use this tool with the IRS2Go mobile app.
  • Direct Pay.  Use our Direct Pay service to pay your tax bill or pay your estimated tax directly from your checking or savings account. Direct Pay is safe, easy and free. The tool walks you through five simple steps to pay your tax in one online session.
  • Online Payment Agreement.  If you can’t pay your taxes in full, apply for an Online Payment Agreement. The Direct Debit payment plan option is a lower-cost hassle-free way to make monthly payments.
  • Withholding Calculator.  If you got a larger refund or owed more tax than you expected when you filed your tax return, you may need to change the amount of tax taken out of your paycheck. The Withholding Calculator tool can help you complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate to give to your employer.
  • Get Transcript.  If you apply for a loan or student financial aid, you may need to get a tax transcript. With Get Transcript, you can download and print your transcript or ask the IRS to mail it to your address of record.
  • Interactive Tax Assistant.  Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool to get answers to common tax questions. The tool will guide you step-by-step to the answer to your question based on your situation.
  • Tax Map.  The IRS Tax Map gives you a single point to get tax law information by subject. It integrates your topic with related tax forms, instructions and publications into one research tool.
  • IRS Select Check.  If you want to deduct your gift to charity, the organization you give to must be qualified. Use the IRS Select Check tool to see if a group is qualified.

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