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The Internal Revenue Service says that it is "opening mail within normal timeframes and all paper and electronic individual refund returns received prior to April 2021 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review."

That's the good news.

The not-so-good news is that as of May 14, the IRS also reports on its mission-critical web page that "we had 9.8 million unprocessed individual returns which include returns received before 2022."

But the agency also has a bit more good news if you're still waiting on a refund based on your tax year 2021 or earlier filing.

The agency's Where's My Refund? online tracking tool has been upgraded so that when all those millions of filings finally are processed, you can check the status of your tax cash for the 2019, 2020, or 2021 tax years.

Expanded refund searching: Previously, a Where's My Refund? search only displayed the status of the taxpayer's most recently filed tax return within the past two tax years.

That left a lot of frustrated taxpayers whose 1040s were among the IRS' historic COVID-19 pandemic processing backlog.

Now those filers can select any of the three most recent tax years to check their refund status. The option is available at the tracker's IRS.gov version, as well as via the IRS2Go app, pictured below.

IRS2Go multiyear refund tracking_upgrade May 2022

Regardless of which option — or tax year — you choose, you can find your refund's status through three stages:

  1. Return received.
  2. Refund approved.
  3. Refund sent.

The tool is updated once a day, usually overnight. Once a refund is approved, the search tool also gives a projected refund issuance date.

Note, though, that the three-year refund search range is available online only. If you call the IRS toll-free refund hotline at (800) 829-1954 and either use the automated system or talk to an IRS representative, you'll only be able to find the status of your 2021 tax return.

Get ready to research: Before you start your refund status tracking, you'll need some information.

You must, on both the online or mobile Where's My Refund? app, provide —

  • your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN),
  • your filing status, and
  • the expected refund amount shown on the original return filed for the tax year you're checking.

Tax timing is everything: Since nobody wants to wait for money, especially tax dollars they overpaid Uncle Sam, it's no surprise that Where's My Refund? is one of the IRS' most popular online features.

Taxpayers logged onto the app, which was developed 20 years ago, more than 776 million times in 2021.

But don't add to those call-in tallies unnecessarily. The tool is updated just once a day, usually overnight.

The IRS also reminds anxious taxpayers there's a bit of a delay before their refund info is available. You need to wait at least 24 hours after e-filing a tax year 2021 return to check the status of that associated refund.

It takes three or four days after e-filing a tax year 2019 or 2020 return before that refund location data is available.

And if you go old-school, expect to wait four weeks after mailing your tax return before you can find where in the heck your refund is in the IRS system.

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