Where’s My State Tax Refund?

Chris Bibey
by Chris Bibey

Are you expecting a tax refund from the state? From the moment you file, you’ll probably be asking, “where’s my refund?” If you pay more state taxes than you owe for the year, the state issues you a refund for the amount you overpaid.

In these tough economic times, numerous states are experiencing budget problems and issues with cash flow. As a result, a lot of state taxpayers have endured higher-than-normal delays with their refunds. While there are various laws requiring states to pay interest to taxpayers on late refunds, many people still find themselves wondering, “where’s my state tax refund?”

Unlike a federal tax refund, which you can track online with the IRS’ Where’s My Refund? system, there is no unified state refund system. This is because each state has their own revenue department and tax collector. State income tax return forms vary as well, which means that state refunds are processed differently in Pennsylvania than in Massachusetts (for instance). Therefore, the “where’s my state tax refund” question may be more difficult to answer.

Most states do have an online system that lets you check the status of your tax refund. If you’re wondering “where’s my state refund?”you should check with your state to see if they offer this type of program.

California, for example, has one of the best state tax refund systems ― taxpayers who file electronically can get their refunds within 2 weeks, and those who send their returns by mail can expect their refund within 8 weeks.  Californians asking “where’s my state refund” can use the State’s tax refund system to get some answers. The system requires certain information, including your Social Security Number, mailing address, and the refund amount that you’re expecting. (This is similar to the information that the IRS’ Where’s My Refund? system requires, as well as many other states.)

Some states, such as Oklahoma, do not have an online system for tracking state tax refunds. This makes it a little more difficult to answer the “where’s my state refund” question. However, Oklahoma does have an automated phone system that walks you through the refund status process. As noted above, you will need to provide certain information from your state tax return.

If you believe that your state tax refund has been lost, stolen or misplaced, you should first check with your state to see how long it usually takes for a refund to arrive. You may find that you simply haven’t waited long enough before asking “where’s my refund?” There is no reason to jump the gun if your state tax refund has yet to be processed ― that will only cause unnecessary stress during a time that should be financially exciting.

There are several things to consider before you start asking “where’s my state tax refund?” Returns filed by paper generally take longer to process, but most states do offer online systems where taxpayers can check the status of their refunds. Also keep in mind that many states are struggling through the economic recession, underfunded and/or understaffed, which has slowed the tax refund process.