Still Waiting for Your Federal Tax Refund? Here's What to Do
Check the Status of Your Income Tax Refund
The IRS tries to process electronic returns within 21 days, but during peak season it can sometimes take longer. If you filed a paper return it can take 6 weeks to process a tax refund, so you will need to be patient.
If you want to know when you can expect your Federal tax refund, you can check the status of your refund using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS.gov website. DO NOT attempt to check your refund using any other service. The “Where's My Refund?” tool on the IRS website is the only tool that can safely and accurately check the status of your refund for you.
What Will You Need?
In order to use the “Where's My Refund?” tool to check on the status of your refund, you will need to know the following information:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your filing status (Single, Married, Head of Household, etc.)
- The exact amount of the refund you are owed
If you filed a joint tax return, you can use either spouse’s Social Security Number to look up your refund.
Where Is This Tool?
Go directly to www.irs.gov. On the right hand side of the page, you will see a column labeled “Filing & Payment.” The first item in that column is “Where's My Refund?” Click on that and it will take you to the IRS refund status page.
This page will ask you for your Social Security Number, your filing status, and the exact amount of the refund that you are due. It is important to answer all three questions correctly or the IRS will not be able to give you any information on your refund.
What Will You See?
The status you see on “Where's My Refund?” cycles through 3 stages:
- Return Received — The IRS has received your tax return and it is being processed.
- Refund Approved — The IRS has completed processing your tax return and has scheduled your tax refund.
- Refund Sent — Your tax refund is on its way to you.
If you chose the Direct Deposit option, it could be a couple of days before you see the money deposited into your account after you see the status change to “Refund Sent” (depending on your bank). If you are receiving your tax refund by paper check or debit card, then it can take an extra couple of weeks to receive your refund in the mail.
The “Where's My Refund?” tool can only give you information for the current tax year. Note that it does not provide any information on amended returns (IRS Form 1040X). It is only updated once a day, usually at night, so there is no need to be constantly checking your refund status every hour.
If you filed electronically, you will need to wait between 24 and 72 hours before you can use the “Where's My Refund?” tool. If you filed a paper tax return, it can take 2 weeks or more for any information to appear.
Can You Speed Up the Process?
Unfortunately, no. There are no forms you can fill out or phone calls you can make that will speed up the processing of your Federal tax return. If you call the IRS, they won’t be able to provide any information about the status of your tax refund until at least 21 days have passed since you filed electronically.
What About Amended Returns? Is There a Way to Check on Them?
It can take 12 weeks or more for the IRS to process an amended tax return (IRS Form 1040X). You can use the IRS tool “Where's My Amended Return?” to check on the status. There are 3 processing stages for amended returns:
- Received — The IRS has received your amended return (Form 1040X) and it is being processed.
- Adjusted — The processing of your amended return has resulted in an adjustment to your account (which may lead to a refund, balance due, or no tax charge).
- Completed — The IRS has finished processing your Form 1040X and has mailed you the official correspondence regarding your amended return. Depending on your situation, you may receive a refund or a notice of balance due.
To use the “Where’s My Amended Return?” tool you will need your Social Security Number, your date of birth, and your zip code. You will be able to check the status of not only the current tax year but also amended returns for the 3 previous tax years.