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Every year at tax time, some of us owe money to the IRS, while others are due to receive a refund. If you have big plans for your tax refund or need the money urgently, you may wonder when you can expect the check or direct deposit to arrive.
While most refunds are issued by the IRS within 21 days of receiving a tax return, they can sometimes take longer. You can easily check the status of your tax return online, through a mobile app or even over the phone.
Check That Your Tax Return Was Accepted by the IRS
Before determining when your tax refund is expected to arrive, first make sure that your tax return was accepted by the IRS.
The IRS' Where's My Refund? portal allows you to check the status of your tax return and monitor it through the stages from being accepted to being approved to the refund being sent.
Get a Copy of Your Tax Return
To check your return or refund status, you'll need to provide the IRS with information to verify your identity and reduce the risk of tax fraud.
The IRS will ask for these details to check on your tax return status:
- Your filing status
- Your exact refund amount
- Your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
Check Your Refund Status With the IRS
The IRS offers three ways to find out the progress of your return:
- Online: As mentioned above, the IRS' Where's My Refund? page allows you to check your refund status 24/7 and find out when you'll receive your refund. The portal is updated daily, and you can usually see your return's status on the website within 24 hours of e-filing your return, or within four weeks of mailing it.
- Mobile app: Your tax return status can also be checked via the IRS2Go mobile app. Available in both English and Spanish, the app allows you to check your federal income tax refund, make tax payments, qualify for free tax assistance and more.
- Calling: You can also call the IRS at 800-829-1040 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time for an update on your tax refund. The IRS requests that you only call them if it's been 21 days or longer since you e-filed, six weeks since you mailed your paper return or if you tried to check status online and were told to contact them.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund?
The IRS aims to deliver tax refunds within 21 days, but this timeline can vary, especially since the agency is still experiencing some backlogs and processing delays due to the pandemic.
Additionally, the more complex your return is, the longer it might take to process. For those who filed an accurate early return and claimed the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit, the IRS says refunds could be expected by March 1. But for returns filed later with these credits, or with the recovery rebate credit, the IRS may take several months to issue refunds.
The IRS notes that filing your return electronically will expedite your refund, so expect the process to take longer if you mail your return. Your refund will also take longer to arrive if you request a check via mail, as opposed to direct deposit.
In addition to how you file and whether you claim certain credits, there are other reasons why your tax return might take longer than usual for you to receive:
- It's incomplete
- It contains errors
- It was impacted by identity theft or fraud
- It needs further review
- It includes Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which can take up to 14 weeks to process
If your tax refund is taking longer than expected and you need the money urgently, you can also call the IRS to make a hardship request for an expedited refund. These requests are for serious hardships only, such as eviction notices, utility shut-offs or an inability to pay for medication. Keep in mind that you are only allowed to request enough money to cover your specific hardship, and receiving this partial payment could delay the remainder of your refund.
Make the Most of Your Refund
If you're getting a tax refund this year, it might be tempting to splurge on a pricey purchase or vacation—but you might want to put the money toward your financial goals instead. This could be building an emergency fund, paying down debt or funneling it into savings for larger future purchases.
Using your tax refund to reduce your debt and catch up on late payments can even help improve your credit score and improve your financial health. If you want to track how these efforts boost your credit over time, you can sign up for free credit monitoring with Experian.