Waiting for Your Tax Refund? Learn How to Track It
Over 145 million tax returns were received by the Internal
Revenue Service in 2017. More than 108 million refunds were issued, with the average refund totaling
That's a decent amount of money that you could use to pay down debt, build your emergency fund, pay
for a major home renovation or cover other expenses. But, one of the most frustrating parts about filing
your tax return is waiting for your refund to make its way to your bank account.
According to the IRS, e-filing is the fastest way to receive your refund. When
filing electronically, it's possible to have your refund deposited directly to your bank account in
three weeks or less. For paper returns, the process can take six to eight weeks.
The good news is that you don’t have to be left in the dark about the status of your refund after
you file your taxes. The IRS has a great tool on their website that allows you to instantly check
on your refund status. And if you're waiting on a refund but it doesn't arrive in the time frame you're
expecting it, the IRS also has a procedure for tracing missing refunds.
Read on to learn about both situations and the steps you should take to track down your
"Where's My Refund?" Online Tool
The "Where's My Refund?" online tool has been in operation since 2007. It's easy to use and accurate
to the day since the IRS updates it every 24 hours (usually overnight).
To check the status of your refund, simply go to Where's
My Refund?. You'll need three pieces of information to look up your refund. Here's what you need
to have handy:
Your Social Security number or Employer Identification Number as used on the return
Filing status (i.e., single, head of household, married filing jointly, married filing
- The exact refund amount as filed on the return
When you plug this information in, you'll be redirected to a Refund Status Results screen. This
screen shows you where your refund is in relation to three stages:
- Return Received
- Refund Approved
- Refund Sent
If your refund has been approved, you should also be able to see an estimated date for when it will
be deposited into your bank account. There should also be a separate date for when you should contact
your bank if your refund has not been received.
You can access the Where's My Refund tool from your laptop. If you prefer to check your refund status
from your mobile device, you can also track you refund using IRS2Go. This app is
available as a free download on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. You can use the app to:
- Check your refund status
- Make a payment if you owe taxes
- Get free tax help
- Retrieve security codes for certain online IRS services
According to the IRS, you can check on the status of your refund must faster if you filed
electronically: information may be available 24 hours after the IRS receives your tax return
electronically. If you filed a paper return, the IRS advises that you check four weeks after mailing
One important thing to remember is that the site is only updated once per day. Checking the status of
your refund multiple times throughout the day won't result in it being processed any faster.
Tracing a Refund Check That Has Gone Missing
The easiest and one of the best ways for you to receive your tax refund is
through direct deposit (electronic transfer of funds directly into your bank account). This also is the
safest method, since you don't need to worry about a paper check getting lost in the mail, misplaced
once you have it in hand, or stolen.
However, the IRS doesn't allow more than three direct deposits into the same
bank account per tax year, so you may have no choice but to get a paper check. In addition, you may have
other reasons for wanting a paper check. If your paper check goes missing, you can ask the IRS to
trace it by calling (800) 829-1954, or by filling out Form 3911 (note
that those who filed as married filing jointly need to start with the form).
The IRS will determine if the check was cashed. If it wasn't, then the agency will issue a replacement
check. If it was cashed, then the agency will create a claims package that includes a copy of the
endorsed, cashed check. Following a review of the information (including the signature on the back of
the cashed check), the agency will decide whether or not to issue a replacement check. Expect this
process, which is run through the U.S. Bureau of the Fiscal Service, to take
about six weeks.
If you're waiting on a direct deposit refund and the anticipated deposit date has passed, check with
your bank to see if the refund has been received. If you've incorrectly entered your bank account number
or routing information when filing, that could cause your refund to go astray. If the refund hasn't
posted to the IRS system, you can request that the direct deposit be stopped.
Be aware, however, that the IRS can't compel a bank to redirect refunds that were deposited to the wrong account in
error. If that occurs, you may have to pursue the matter civilly with the bank and/or the owner of the
account that received the refund to recover the money.
What If You Filed an Amended Return?
Sometimes, you may have to amend your tax return. For example, you may have
overlooked a key income statement or forgotten to claim a valuable deduction. In those instances,
amending your return may be necessary to calculate the correct amount of taxes owed or the refund due to
If you filed an amended return, you can track its status through the
IRS website. To do that, you'll just need to plug in your Social Security number, date of birth and
zip code. An amended return can take up to three weeks to show up in the IRS system after you send it,
and another 16 weeks to process it. So, you may need to be patient as you wait out the arrival of your