It’s that time of year. The sun is shining, the days have gotten longer, flowers are blooming. It can only mean one thing: tax season is here.
For Americans, that means you’re likely gathering up your documents including W2’s and 1099s and preparing to file. Or, if you’re an early bird, you’re patiently awaiting the long-awaited tax refund.
But how can you find out if your tax refund is on its way? What’s the status and will it arrive via mail or direct deposit?
The good news is, in recent years, thanks to digitalization, the IRS has made tracking tax returns a much easier process. And in this guide, we’ll look at how to find out where your tax return is and when you can expect it.
It pays to e-file.
E-filing, or submitting your taxes virtually, is already well underway. The IRS began accepting tax returns on Friday, February 12, 2021. So if you’re ready to send your tax return in, go right ahead. The sooner you file, the sooner you may see a refund.
That said, the IRS said itself that in order to receive your tax return faster, it’s better to e-file. In fact, the IRS went on to say that tax refunds would be sent out the very next day, so early bird e-files might already be enjoying their refund cash.
How much cash can you expect back?
Tax refunds vary for every individual and are determined by comparing your total income tax to the amount that was withheld for federal income tax. That’s why it pays to keep track of your receipts for tax write-offs, business expenses, etc.
That said, the IRS did report that last year’s average tax refund was more than $2,500.
Quick Turnaround Time
An incredible 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the majority filed before the Thursday, April 15 deadline. And yet, even with that huge amount of data to sift through, the IRS predicts that nine out of 10 taxpayers who e-file will receive their refund this year within 21 days.
Why filing early pays off even for those who owe
If you know you’re going to owe taxes this year, the logic tends to be “I’ll just put it off since I’m not going to get any money back.” But think of it this way: If you submit your taxes early, you’ll have more time to save up to pay the money you owe. That’s because you don’t have to pay your taxes until the April 15 deadline.
How to get a refund update right now
All that being said, it’s easy to understand that taxpayers might be anxious to get some info on when their refund will hit their account. The IRS has opted for something more in keeping with our digital age: a “Where’s my tax refund” tool.
Simply visit the IRS website and you can put in a few pieces of information to get an update on your refund. Questions include:
- Your social security number
- Filing status (like single, married, etc.)
- Exact refund amount
That last one is the trickiest because the IRS really does require the whole dollar figure in order to find your refund. So when you’re e-filing, make a point to write down the tax refund figure your software gives you before you e-file.
If you’re on the go, you can also keep tabs on your refund status. The IRS has added a mobile app called IRS2Go where you can also check on your refund using your smartphone device.
Reading my refund status
Once you’ve accessed one of the two ways to check your status, you’ll receive a message that states the following:
This indicates that your refund has been deposited into your account. The message will also convey what date that transfer went through so you can check your account as well.
This means the IRS has approved your taxes and will be submitting your refund soon.
Your refund is now on its way to your bank through direct deposit, or as a paper check to your mailbox.
What if it says received but you haven’t gotten your refund?
The IRS understands that this system doesn’t always work. And if something goes amiss and you’re getting a “received” message, but have not received your refund, the IRS gives the following instructions:
- Check with your bank to determine if your refund has been received;
- Verify the routing and bank account numbers on your electronically filed return are correct; or
- Call your preparer to verify the routing and bank account numbers are correct.
But don’t panic. There might be a simple answer to the delay. In some instances, banks can take up to an additional five days to post a transfer to an account.
In the event that your refund is sent via mail, then taxpayers will need to be a bit more patient. The IRS says a mailed refund can take from six to eight weeks to reach the taxpayer.