The wait can seem like an eternity when you're expecting a tax refund. You’ll likely find you have to wait at least a couple of weeks to see that money in your bank account even if you file early in the tax season. But the IRS makes it easy to check on the progress of your tax return. It provides a website specifically designed for that purpose.
You can begin watching the site for confirmation that your return has been received once you've filed. It will also tell you when it's been approved and submitted for processing. Understanding the timeline can give you a rough idea of when you can realistically expect your money.
You’ll receive a receipt confirmation from the IRS immediately if you file electronically. You can monitor the status of your refund through the IRS Refund Status page after that point.
How to Check if Your Return Was Filed
Provide your Social Security number, your filing status and the exact amount of the refund you’re expecting to check your refund status. The site should have information about your return 24 hours after you submit it electronically. The information updates every 24 hours, usually overnight. You probably won’t see any data on the IRS Refund Status page for at least four weeks if you mail in a paper return.
The IRS updated taxpayers by phone on refund status before it set up this status page. You can still call the IRS for these updates, but the most current information is provided on the refund status page. The agency continues to experience delays with live phone support during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The IRS recommends calling only if it's been 21 days or more since you e-filed or six weeks or more since you mailed in your return unless the IRS Refund Status page tells you that you should contact the IRS. Otherwise, the website is the best resource.
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Confirming Your Filing
Checking to find out if your tax return was filed starts when you click the “submit” button or place your return in the mail. You may think you’ve filed your return only to learn that it never went through. Checking to ensure that the IRS has received it depends on the way you filed.
A professional tax preparer will be able to verify whether the submission went through if you use one. The IRS will confirm the return has been received in a matter of minutes in many cases. Ask your tax preparer to provide written confirmation that your return is now with the IRS if you're unsure.
You should receive an email confirmation from the IRS if you use tax preparation software like TurboTax or TaxAct. Your software provider should also provide a site or link where you can check the status of your return.
Confirming receipt can be a bit more complicated if you file by postal mail. You can call the IRS and ask for an update after six weeks, but this can be a nail-biter if you file later in the tax season and you should be prepared for lengthy wait times on the phone during COVID. You may want to consider e-filing using the IRS’s free service if you qualify, unless you have a reason to file a paper-based return. The service will give you the electronic confirmation you need within a matter of days. IRS Free File is available to anyone who earned $73,000 or less in the 2021 tax year, the return you'll file in 2022.
Predicted Turnaround Times
Nine out of 10 refunds are issued within 21 days of a return being filed, according to the IRS, but this turnaround time doesn’t apply to the estimated 10 percent of taxpayers who mail their returns. Paper returns take significantly longer to process, and the IRS has indicated that you can expect delays with this in the 2022 filing season as well due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other issues can also slow down your refund. The IRS is prohibited by law from issuing refunds before Feb. 15 to anyone who has claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit. The agency indicates that it could be mid-March before you receive the money, with or without a pandemic.
E-filing will get your refund to you more quickly and you’ll know that the IRS has received your return almost as soon as you’ve submitted it.
IRS Timeline for Paper Returns
Representatives manually review each paper tax return for errors. They correct those that can be easily fixed and forward them to the refund processing center. Payment is remitted based on the method the taxpayer selected on their return. A paper check must be printed and mailed via the postal system if you don't request direct deposit. Transferring the funds electronically is a much quicker process.
Refund Delays Due to Error
There was probably an error on your tax return if receiving your refund is taking longer than you think it should. that couldn’t be easily cleared up. Even a small mistake can slow things down if the IRS must reach out to you for clarifying information. The IRS will never email you or phone you in this case. It will notify you and request the information by mail through the U.S. postal system.
Always double- and triple-check your tax return for mistakes if you prepare it yourself. It’s especially important to make sure you’ve included your correct Social Security number. Make sure you’ve attached all necessary forms.
Make sure you check your direct deposit information and your math because many returns are delayed based on those two things. Even choosing the wrong standard deduction for your age and filing status could slow things down.
Refund Delays Due to Fraud
Fraudulent activity connected with your Social Security number can also cause a delay in processing. You likely won’t even be aware of this until you file.
Fraudulent tax activity occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to file a return and get a refund. The agency will know that something is afoot when you try to file your own return and they already have one filed on your behalf.
Read More: What Happens If You Don't File Taxes?
Speeding Up Your Refund
You can do a few things to try to hurry your refund along a little. The first step is to avoid filing a paper tax return. E-filing will get your refund to you more quickly and you’ll know that the IRS has received your return almost as soon as you’ve submitted it.
Another way to speed up your refund is to opt to receive it electronically. You'll be waiting much longer if you choose to have a check mailed to you. You can have your refund deposited in up to three separate bank accounts.
You should also begin checking the IRS Refund Status page as soon as possible and check it regularly throughout the time you’re waiting for your refund. You'll see a request to call the IRS early in the process if there's a problem, possibly letting you clear things up quickly so that your tax return can be moved to the refund processing stage.
- IRS: Where's My Refund?
- IRS: Six reasons 90 percent of the people will e-file their tax returns
- IRS: IRS Submission Processing Pipeline
- IRS: Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft
- IRS: Get Your Refund Faster: Tell IRS to Direct Deposit Your Refund to One, Two, or Three Accounts
- IRS: IRS Operations During COVID-19 Mission Critical Functions Continue
- IRS: Free File – Do Your Federal Taxes for Free
- IRS: When to Expect Your Refund If You Claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.