Where's My Refund? How To Track Your Tax Return

Natasha Khullar RelphNatasha Khullar Relph

Mar 29, 2024

Where's My Refund? How To Track Your Tax Return

Are you eagerly waiting for your federal income tax refund? We’ve got you covered. I

Here are the steps to track your refund and know exactly where your hard-earned money is.

How to File Your Income Tax Return

Tracking your return is quick and easy. As long as you file your taxes correctly, you should be able to track your returns within 36 hours of e-filing or four weeks after paper filing.

There are several different ways to file your individual income tax return. You can hire a tax preparer, file electronically using software or an app, or fill out an IRS Form 1040 or 1040-SR by hand and mail it.

Keep backup records for returns from each tax season, as they can help with future filings and make it easier if you need to file an amended return. Examples of these records can include invoices, canceled checks, sales slips, paid bills, receipts, deposit slips, and more. Keeping these documents is crucial as they support the records on your return.

Common Causes of Delayed Income Tax Refunds

You should receive your refund from the Internal Revenue Service in 21 days or less on average. However, tracking your refund regularly is a good idea, especially if it has been longer than a few weeks. The fastest way to check your refund status is to use the Where’s My Refund? tool or download the IRS2Go App on your phone.

There can be several factors that cause delays, including:

  • Errors or inaccuracies, such as the wrong Social Security number, ID number, or filing status
  • Receiving a refund amount that is larger than average compared to prior years
  • A mismatch between the information on your federal tax return and state tax return
  • Submitting a paper tax return instead of an electronic one
  • Using a form for the wrong tax year
  • Claiming certain tax credits or deductions that require additional processing time
  • Identity theft or fraud
  • Delays in mailing or processing the tax return by the IRS

It’s important to remember that the process may also take longer during certain times of the year due to high volumes of tax returns being processed.

How To Receive Your Tax Refund Faster

Waiting for a tax refund can feel like an eternity, but did you know there are ways to speed up the process? Taking a few simple steps can help ensure your tax refund arrives quickly.

File Electronically

To reduce the number of potential mistakes and mathematical errors on your return, file electronically. Filing electronically can also bring up potential tax credits or deductions you didn’t know you could claim. File either with IRS Free File or another online tax software like TurboTax and choose direct deposit to get your refund quickly and securely.

Mail Paper Returns to the Correct Address

The recommended method to file your tax return is electronically, as it is more efficient, accurate, and secure than filing a paper return. However, those who choose to submit their return through the mail should verify their correct address to ensure it arrives promptly and efficiently. To avoid delays, you can look on the Where to File Paper Returns page on the IRS website to confirm the address before you send it out.

Report All Taxable Income

Under-reporting your income can lead to penalties and interest. Most income is taxable, which includes interest received, unemployment income, money from digital assets, the service industry, and more. IRS Publication 525 explains the difference between taxable and nontaxable income.

Make a Copy of Your Tax Return

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their signed return and any schedules used to prepare the filing. Making copies of your return will help you with any math calculations if you need to file an amended return and can also be helpful for reference when processing future annual tax returns.

Taxpayers must keep their records on file for items of income, deductions, or credit listed on their return until the period of limitations for that return ends. Generally, this is three years from the date you filed your original return or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return.

Direct Deposit: The Fastest Way to Receive Your Refund

Direct deposit lets you transfer your tax refund electronically into your bank account for free. In addition to not costing anything, the service is easy and safe, and it gives you the security that you will receive your funds automatically. With direct deposit, you don’t need to worry about your check getting stolen or lost in the mail.

How To Set Up Direct Deposit

Setting up direct deposit is relatively easy. If using an online tax company or software to file, you would choose direct deposit as your refund method. You will also need to enter your bank account information and routing numbers.

If you use a tax preparer/accountant to file, let them know that direct deposit is your preferred method. You can even choose direct deposit if you still file your taxes by paper.

Using Mobile Apps

Some mobile apps will let you choose direct deposit for tax refunds. Like e-filing, you will need your routing and account numbers. The easiest way to do this is to confirm the numbers with your mobile app provider or your financial establishment of choice. It is important to note that you must have this information ready when filing, as the IRS cannot accept it once you file the return.

What Are the Benefits of Using Direct Deposit?

Here are some key benefits of using direct deposit to receive your tax refund:

  • Faster access to your money: Direct deposit usually allows you to receive your tax refund sooner.
  • Convenient: With direct deposit, your refund goes directly into your bank account without the need to visit a bank or wait for a check to arrive in the mail.
  • More secure: Direct deposit eliminates the risk of a paper check being lost, stolen, or damaged during mailing.
  • Cost-effective: Direct deposit is usually free, while cashing a check at a check-cashing store may incur fees.
  • Environmentally friendly: Choosing direct deposit helps to reduce paper waste and protect the environment.

Another often overlooked benefit is that using direct deposit for your tax refund provides options. You can divide your refund into three financial accounts: checking, savings, and an IRA. You even have the opportunity to purchase savings bonds with your refund. For those interested in divvying up your refund, use this form: Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases).

What to Do If You Haven’t Received Your Refund

Tax returns received in the current year will be processed according to which refunds are due first. Tax returns where taxes are owed are processed last. However, if payment is received with the tax return, the payment is deposited immediately to credit the taxpayer’s account.

As tax returns get processed, there may be delays if there is missing information, suspected identity theft, or fraud. The IRS will try to correct the information without contacting you, but they will send you a letter if they need more information.

IRS representatives can only check the refund status if it has been more than 21 days since you filed electronically, you mailed your return six weeks ago or longer, or if the Where’s My Refund? tool advises you to contact the IRS. Resolving these issues could take more than 120 days, depending on your response and response time.

Understanding Refund Status

When tracking the status of your tax refund, it’s essential to understand the various refund statuses used by the IRS to identify where your refund is in the process. Here are some typical refund statuses and a brief explanation of each:

  • Received: This status indicates that the IRS has received your tax return and is being processed.
  • Approved: Your refund has been processed, and the IRS has determined it is owed to you.
  • Sent: Your refund has been transmitted via direct deposit or as a paper check.
  • In Progress: This status can occur when your refund has been delayed for various reasons, such as errors on your return or because you have been selected for additional review by the IRS.
  • Under Review: This status means that the IRS is conducting a more thorough review of your tax return and may require additional information or documentation before continuing the refund process.

What To Do if Your Refund Hasn’t Been Received

If you filed electronically and received confirmation that it was received, contacted the IRS. Check the IRS website’s Where’s My Refund? page if you filed on paper over six months ago.

If the website can’t locate your return, you should resubmit an electronic tax return. The tax return should include an original signature and all documents submitted with the original return. Amended returns could take more than 20 weeks to process, but you should only file for a return once. After that, you should check the Where’s My Amended Return? for updated information.

Why Would a Refund Be Withheld?

Tax refunds are usually issued within 21 days if you file electronically. However, if you file using the paper form, it can be longer. Other delays may result from responding to taxpayer mail and processing incorrect tax returns.

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The opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security or investment product. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice.

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