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How to Check Your IRS Refund Status in 5 Minutes

By Cameron McCool on March 14, 2019

Wondering when that tax money will hit your bank account? We’ve got some answers.

I just filed my return. How do I check my tax refund status?

You can check your tax refund status online using the IRS’s handy Where’s My Refund? tool.

You’ll need three pieces of information to login to the tool:

  1. Your Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number

  2. Your filing status—"Single,” "Married Filing Joint Return,” “Married Filing Separate Return,” “Head of Household,” or “Qualifying Widow(er)” (If you filed Form 1040, your Filing Status is at the top of the form, above your name and social security number.)

  3. Your exact refund amount (Line 20a on Form 1040)

Here’s what the login page for the Where’s My Refund? tool looks like before you login:

IRS Where's My Refund?

How soon will I be able to check my status?

If you e-file your return, you should be able to check the status of your return as little as 24 hours after you file.

If you filed a paper return, the status of your tax return should take about four weeks to appear in the IRS’s system.

Here’s what the Where’s My Refund? Portal looks like before the IRS receives your return:

IRS Refund Status Results

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What happens once the IRS receives my return?

Once the IRS receives your tax return and starts processing it, Where’s My Refund will show you one of three statuses: “Return Received,” “Refund Approved” and “Refund Sent.”

Here’s what each of them means:

Stage 1: Return Received

This means that the IRS has received your tax return, and that it’s currently being processed.

Here’s what the Where’s My Refund? tool looks like once the IRS receives your return:

image 2

Stage 2: Refund Approved

This means the IRS has processed and approved your return. This usually happens about three weeks (21 days) after the IRS indicates they’ve received your return.

Once the IRS processes your return, you’ll see an estimated date for when the money will be deposited into your bank account, like so:

IRS Refund Status Results revised

If you don’t receive your refund by the date mentioned on this page, the IRS suggests contacting your bank first, to make sure there aren’t any problems with your account.

Stage 3: Refund Sent

This means the IRS has sent your refund to your financial institution for direct deposit, or mailed a check. (Where’s My Refund? should indicate the date that the payment was sent.)

Remember that it may take your bank anywhere from one to five days to deposit the funds into your account. If you requested a paper check, it could take several weeks for it to arrive in the mail.

Here’s what Where’s My Refund? will look like once that happens:

image 4

The IRS will also use this page to let you know whether your refund amount was reduced for some reason—because you owed money to the IRS for a previous return, for example.

Will refreshing the page help?

No. The IRS updates their system once a day, usually at night, so there’s no need to check Where’s My Return? multiple times a day.

Also keep in mind that the IRS takes the Where’s My Refund? tool offline every Monday from midnight to 3:00 am Eastern Time for routine maintenance.

So when should I expect my refund to be ready?

In 2018, 9 out of 10 e-filers received their refund less than 21 calendar days after their return was received by the IRS.

That might be an impressive statistic, but it’s by no means a promise. The IRS has no hard deadline for when it will send you your refund.

Even if you e-filed your tax return on time with no problems, and even if it took 21 days to get your refund in previous years, remember that your return could always require additional review and take longer. Be patient, and remember to never count on getting your refund by a particular calendar date.

If you file a physical tax return in the mail, your refund should arrive within six weeks after the date the IRS receives your return. (But again, same rules about patience apply.)

Will calling the IRS speed up my tax refund?

No, it won’t. IRS phone representatives can only research the status of your refund 21 days after you file electronically, or six weeks after you mail your paper return.

Don’t bother calling the IRS for your refund status until then, even if the Where’s My Refund? tool directs you to call the IRS.

If it’s been more than 21 days (or six weeks, if you mailed your return), call the toll-free IRS refund line at +1 (800) 829 1954.

How long should I wait if I filed an amended tax return?

Amended returns can take up to three weeks to show up in the system, and processing can take 16 weeks or longer, depending on whether your amended return requires additional review.

You can track the status of your amended tax return (and refund) via the aptly-titled “Where’s My Amended Return?” tool:

image 5

Just like in the “Where’s My Return?” tool, your amended return will go through three stages while it’s being processed:

Received means your amended return has been received, and it’s being processed.

Adjusted means the IRS made an adjustment to your account. (The adjustment will result in a refund, a balance due, or in no tax change.)

Completedmeans the IRS has processed your return, and mailed you all of the information connected to its processing.

If you mailed an amended return to the IRS more than three weeks ago and it hasn’t appeared in the system, call the IRS automated toll-free number +1 (866) 464 2050 to resolve the issue.

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Get organized and skip the stress. This tax checklist tells you everything you need to file on time—customized for your business.

What if I don’t have access to the internet?

Not to worry–the IRS has a dedicated Refund Hotline set up at 1-800-829-1954.

Make sure to have your Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number, filing status and exact refund amount handy when you call.

Where do I check my state tax refund status?

These days, most states let you check your state tax refund status online.

Here are links to each state’s individual online tax status portal:


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This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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