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IRS refund tracking tool gets 2024 filing season upgrades

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The Internal Revenue Service isn't playing games with tax refunds. Next tax-filing season, it's popular Where's My Refund? online tracking tool will get some needed improvements.

The main questions millions of taxpayers ask every filing season are related to refunds. How big is it? When will I get it? Where the heck is my refund?

That last question led to the Internal Revenue Service's creation of its popular online tracking tool, Where's My Refund?

Next filing season, which is just three months away, taxpayers will find several improvements to the refund tracker.

Popular, but often frustrating, query tool: Where's My Refund? was used in 2022 by 54 million taxpayers, generating 550 million hits at the site.

However, the tool provides limited information. That forces frustrated taxpayers to call the IRS seeking information about their refunds' status. And we all know how much fun calling the IRS can be.

The IRS hopes to eliminate those follow-up phone calls.

Starting in 2024, Where's My Refund? will feature several improvements, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told IRS staff during an address today, Nov. 7, previewing the 2024 filing season at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Overall, the refund tracking tool will incorporate conversational voice bot technology to help taxpayers get answers more quickly. It also will provide clearer and more detailed information in plain language. This should help taxpayers deal with return process problems and get their refunds more quickly.

More precise messages: Taxpayers often see a generic message stating that their returns are still being processed and to check back later. The improvements will give taxpayers clearer and more detailed updates, including whether the IRS needs them to respond to a letter requesting additional information.

For example, the current Where's My Refund? message tells the user, "Your tax return is still being processed. A refund date will be provided when available. For more information about processing delays, please see our Refund Frequently Asked Questions."

Next filing season, the tracker will provide, as necessary, a variety of taxpayer messages, like the examples below.

  • "To protect you from identity theft, your tax return is currently being reviewed. To help us process your return more quickly, verify your identity and tax return information. If you recently received a letter from us, follow the instructions on the letter. Please have your tax return (Form 1040 series) available and read the website or letter before starting the verification process. If you already reviewed your identity and tax return information you may check the status of your refund in 2-3 weeks."
  • "We received your return and sent you a letter requesting more information. Please respond by following the instructions in the letter. If you don't respond, your refund amount could be changed. It may take 2-3 weeks for you to receive the letter."
  • "We have reviewed your return and any information we may have requested from you and are now processing your return. Any changes to the status of your refund, including any new refund date, will be reflected here when any new update is available."

The IRS estimates that 70 million taxpayers will use the new and improved refund status tool next filing season. Many of those queries will be on mobile devices, as the updates will ensure Where's My Refund? is accessible to taxpayers using smartphones or tablets.

Further upgrades are planned for future filing seasons.

Upgrades thanks to new funds: The online refund inquiry tool is just one of the customer service upgrades that Yellen noted was being funded by the money provided in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Act's original $80 billion allocation was reduced to around $60 due to deal between the White House and House Republicans earlier this year to suspend the debt limit.

The House passed a measure to provide $14 million in aid to Israel, but only if that money came, again, from the IRS' special funds. It's not likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. Even if that happens, President Joe Biden has said he will veto the bill if it does make it to his desk.

Yellen added Treasury's opposition to such IRS financial cuts. She told the assembled IRS staffers —

"The current proposals to cut funding for the IRS make this an especially crucial time to talk about the importance of this work. Playing politics with IRS funding is unacceptable. Cutting it would be damaging and irresponsible. The IRS collects 96 percent of the federal government’s revenue. This is the funding that enables our country to protect our national security, provide social security and healthcare, and invest in our nation’s infrastructure, among other key priorities. The IRS is also one of the few parts of government that touches nearly every American household. Taxpayers deserve a system that allows them to meet their obligations and contribute to our country’s strength with pride and ease." 

The Treasury Secretary's speech also touched on other ways the money will be used to update and upgrade agency operations. I'll discuss those IRS improvements in coming posts.

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