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How Do I Check My Federal Tax Return Status?

How Do I Check My Federal Tax Return Status?

Find out how to check your refund, how long you can expect to wait, and what could have caused the delay

The best way to check your return’s status is to use the Where’s My Refund tool on the IRS website.

Don’t call the IRS unless Where’s My Refund tells you to. Calling the IRS unnecessarily will just bog them down and make things slower for everyone, you included.

The IRS updates statuses on Where’s My Refund every 24 hours – usually at night – so you only need to check once a day. Checking more often is not only unnecessary but could cause the entire system to crash, preventing you from being able to check your status at all.

Before you check your status you should wait 24-72 hours after e-filing or 3-4 weeks after mailing a paper return to give the IRS time to receive and process your return.

In order to access your refund status you will need your Social Security number, filing status, and exact refund amount. This means you will probably need a copy of your return handy.

How long does it usually take to get a refund?

The IRS claims that it issues most refunds within 21 calendar days of receiving an e-filed return and for the most part they’re pretty good. However, you shouldn’t be surprised if you experience a delay or several weeks or even months, as they are relatively common. This past tax season the IRS was especially slow thanks to the fiscal cliff and changes they made to their system to try to prevent identity theft.

Note that refunds from a paper return take 6 to 8 weeks, which means that by far the fastest way to get your refund is to e-file.

What are some causes of delay?

If your refund takes longer than this, it could be delayed for a variety of reasons.

  • IRS backlog – When most people don’t get their refund within the estimated time range they begin to panic and assume they’re being audited. However, most of the time it’s just general IRS incompetence. Expect processing to be delayed during busy times, especially if you file right after e-file opens in January or right before the April 15th deadline.
  • Incorrect info – One of the biggest causes of preventable delays is incorrect information, and not about the complicated tax stuff, about basic personal info. Before you e-file your return make sure your name, Social Security number, address, and direct deposit bank account details are all correct. A simple typo could result in a delayed refund.

The IRS also has a mobile app, IRS2Go, if you really need to check the status of your refund on the go.

If you still haven’t filed your return, or you need to file a return from a previous year, you can do it right here on PriorTax.

Photo via hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr.

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