How to Check an IRS Tax Return

by Victoria Lee Blackstone ; Updated March 15, 2018

You may be waiting with bated breath to receive your anticipated tax refund. Or you may have had to pay additional tax when you filed your return, and you want to confirm it was received by the filing deadline so you aren’t facing a late filing fee. In either case, you’re caught in limbo as you wonder whether the IRS received your tax return. Fortunately, checking the status of your return is easier than ever before because of computer capability and wireless technology.

Mailing vs. E-Filing

Depending on how you filed your return, you have different options for checking its status. The IRS accepts tax returns in two ways:

  1. Mail. You can use the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) or a courier service, such as FedEx or UPS, to send your tax return through the mail.
  2. Electronic filing (e-filing). You can electronically submit your return by filing it online. 

How to Check an IRS Tax Return That You Mailed

The quickest way to confirm the receipt of your mailed tax return is to send the return with a tracking number. The USPS offers delivery confirmation on its website (USPS.com) by simply entering your tracking number, and courier services also provide tracking numbers so you can verify that your return made it to the IRS. If you had to send a check with your return to pay the balance of tax owed, check your bank statement or online banking account. Your cleared check confirms the receipt of your tax return.

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How to Check an IRS Tax Return That You E-Filed

The IRS provides digital confirmation when you file your tax return online, whether you prepare and transmit your own return or you hire a professional tax preparer. If your adjusted gross income is less than $66,000, you can e-file your federal tax return for free using the IRS Free File software at IRS.gov. By using the Free File option, you’ll receive digital confirmation your return was received.

How to Track Your Tax Refund

The IRS offers two ways to check the status of your refund:

  1. Download IRS2Go, a free mobile app, from IRS.gov. This app allows you to track the status of your refund using a smartphone or tablet. 
  2. Visit the “Where’s My Refund?” page at IRS.gov to track your refund online. If you e-filed your tax return, you can access your refund status 24 hours after filing. If you mailed a paper tax return, you’ll have to wait up to four weeks before you can view your refund status.

What May Delay Your Refund

For nine out of 10 tax returns that qualify for a refund, the IRS typically issues the refunds in less than 21 days from the date it receives a return. If you’ve confirmed receipt of your return, and it’s been more than 21 days since the IRS received it, numerous factors may be responsible for your refund’s delay:

  • Your return may have been incomplete.
  • Your return may have contained errors.
  • If you filed Form 8379 (Injured Spouse Allocation), your tax return’s processing time increases up to 14 weeks.
  • If you claimed Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), 2017 legislation requires the IRS to hold taxpayer refunds until late February. 

About the Author

Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper articles. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson University, Blackstone was hired as a University of Georgia Master Gardener Coordinator. She is also a former mortgage acquisition specialist for Freddie Mac in Atlanta, GA.

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