Tax Time Guide: ‘Where’s My Refund?’ online tool answers commonly asked question

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today said that most tax refunds are issued in less than 21 days, although some may take longer. As of March 16, the IRS had already issued more than 61 million refunds averaging $2,960. Taxpayers can check the status of their refund online at IRS.gov by visiting the “Where’s My Refund?” tool or through the IRS2Go mobile app.

This is the last in a series of nine IRS tips called the Tax Time Guide. The guide is designed to help taxpayers as they near the April 17 tax filing deadline.

There are many factors that can affect the timing of a tax refund. Some tax returns take longer to process because the return includes errors or is incomplete, is affected by identity theft or fraud or, in general, needs further review. The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail if more information is needed to process a return. Once a refund has been approved the time it takes a bank to post the refund to an account can also have an impact. If requesting a paper refund check, taxpayers should also take into consideration the time it takes for it to arrive in the mail.

Taxpayers can use “Where’s My Refund?” to start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS receives an e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayers mailed a paper return. The tool has a tracker that displays progress through three phases: (1) Return Received; (2) Refund Approved; and (3) Refund Sent.

Those who use “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov or the IRS2Go app must have information from their current tax return to access their information.

The IRS updates “Where’s My Refund?” once a day, usually overnight. Rather than calling the IRS and waiting on hold or ordering a tax transcript, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the website and use the tool. The information available online is the same information available to IRS telephone assistors.

Some taxpayers believe they can learn about the status of their refund by ordering a tax transcript. The IRS notes that the information on a transcript does not necessarily reflect the amount or timing of a refund. While taxpayers can use a transcript for help with tax preparation and to validate past income and tax filing status for certain loan applications, they should use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool to check the status of their refund.

The use of e-file and direct deposit continue to be the fastest and safest way to file an accurate return and receive a tax refund. More than four out of five tax returns are expected to be filed electronically, with a similar proportion of refunds issued through direct deposit.

Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov anytime. No appointment required and no waiting on hold.