When Will I Get My Federal Tax Refund?

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor

If you ever want to check your IRS refund status, you have several options available to you. Thanks to technology, taxpayers can now go online to check the status of their federal tax refund. Of course, you can still choose to go the traditional route and check the status of your refund by phone. Depending on how you file your federal income tax return — electronically or by paper mail — you will need to wait a certain amount of time (for the IRS to process your return) before you can expect to receive your federal tax refund.

How Did You File Your Income Tax Return?

The IRS offers a standard response to taxpayers who inquire about when they should expect to get their tax refund: “The IRS issued more than 9 out of 10 refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days last year. The same results are expected this year.” This means that you will probably receive your federal refund within 3 weeks of filing your tax return.

The IRS states that “most refunds will be issued in less than 21 days.” Keep in mind, this is not a guarantee by the IRS that you will get your refund within that timeframe, and it also assumes there are no mistakes or delays with your return.

If you file a paper tax return, the IRS will typically be able to issue your tax refund within 6 to 8 weeks after receiving your return. If you file your tax return electronically (also known as “e-file”), it will be processed faster in the IRS system, which means you can expect to receive your tax refund faster as well — usually within 3 weeks.

READ: Mistakes to Avoid When You E-File Taxes

There are 3 main methods you can use to check the status of your federal tax refund: via Internet using the IRS “Where’s My Refund” online tracker tool, by phone, or with the IRS2GO smartphone application.

Check the Status of Your Federal Tax Refund Online

Gone are the days when taxpayers had to estimate the date for receiving their federal tax refunds using the IRS Refund Cycle Chart. Advancements in technology have allowed the IRS to offer taxpayers the use of the “Where’s My Refund?” online tracker tool.

The “Where’s My Refund?” tool tracks the status of your tax refund, providing simple alerts based on 3 basic steps of the tax return and refund process:

  1. Tax Return Received
  2. Tax Refund Approved
  3. Tax Refund Sent

If you filed a paper tax return, the “Where’s My Refund?” tool will declare your status as “Return Received” within 4 weeks after you’ve mailed your paper return. The online tool is much faster if you filed your return electronically, allowing taxpayers to check on the status of their federal refunds within 24 hours of e-filing.

READ: E-File Taxes Online for Free

In order to use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, you should be ready to enter your personal information — including your Social Security Number (SSN), filing status, and tax refund amount (in exact whole dollars).

Check the Status of Your Federal Tax Refund By Phone

Another option for checking the status of your refund is to call the IRS Refund Hotline (800-829-1954). Make sure you are prepared to provide your Social Security Number (SSN), filing status, and tax refund amount (in exact whole dollars).

Check the Status of Your Federal Tax Refund with IRS2GO

If you have a smartphone, you may want to consider downloading the free “IRS2GO” application. This application allows you to communicate with the IRS and check the status of your tax refund all from your mobile device. Apple customers can download “IRS2GO” from the Apple App Store. Android customers can download “IRS2GO” on the Android Marketplace. Note that you will need to enter your Social Security Number (SSN), filing status, and tax refund amount (in exact whole dollars) to access your information.

FREE: Check Your 2014 Credit Score