If Your Tax Return Is Accepted Does That Mean the IRS Is Finished Processing It?

by Fraser Sherman ; Updated July 27, 2017

If you submit your tax return electronically, the Internal Revenue Service will notify you once it's accepted. This doesn't mean the agency is done with it, only that IRS employees haven't spotted any obvious problems that require rejecting it. The agency still has to finish processing your documents and going over your figures.

Accept or Reject

If the IRS rejects a return, it provides an explanation for why there's a problem. The agency says typical rejection issues with digital returns include writing the wrong Social Security number, misspelling a name or omitting one of the forms you need. In those cases, you'll be told to resubmit the return with the problem fixed.

Sometimes the problem runs deeper. If your dependent's Social Security number is flagged, it may be that someone else has claimed your dependent. This could be the result of an honest error or an attempt at fraud. If you can't spot any reason for the duplicate number that helps you fix your return, the IRS will require you to submit a hard-copy return instead of filing online.

What Comes Next

Once the IRS accepts your return, it will go over everything in greater detail. Common errors include:

• Making incorrect calculations

• Writing illegibly

• Entering information on the wrong line

• Not identifying negative amounts properly

• Claiming more than one filing status

• Claiming the wrong number of exemptions

• Forgetting to attach a W-2 or a check for taxes due

The IRS also watches and compares returns for possible identity theft or fraud.

If you're submitting electronically, the system may catch the errors quickly. It'll take longer with paper returns. The IRS can correct some errors on its own — figures added incorrectly, for instance — or it may notify you that the agency needs more information.

Tracking Your Return

If you file electronically, you can start tracking your return within 24 hours of the IRS accepting it. If you mail it in, you have to wait four weeks. The IRS doesn't send an acceptance notification for paper returns.

You can track returns online using the IRS Where's My Refund tool. The tool tracks your return from Return Received — the IRS has accepted and is processing it — to Refund Approved to Refund Sent. It updates once every 24 hours, so there's no point in checking more frequently. To use Where's My Refund, you'll need to provide your Social Security number, filing status and the refund amount you think you're due.


  • You can track your refund using your cell phone via the IRS2Go app.

The IRS says you can track returns by visiting an IRS office or calling the agency. However you have to wait until 21 days after you filed electronically or six weeks after you submitted a paper return.

Requesting a transcript will not tell you the status of your return. The transcript may include information about how the IRS is processing your account, but it's not information that gives you a processing timeline.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.