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Where is your tax refund? IRS tracking tool aims to answer annual query

Refund coming post-it note on 1040_but when

Tax season 2024 is off to a slow start compared to filings at this time last year.

At this early point in the tax season last year, the Internal Revenue Service had received nearly 19 million returns. But by the end of the first week of the 2024 filing season, just around 15.3 million returns had arrived at the IRS. That's a substantial 19.1 percent decrease from 2023's early filings.

Still, some 2024 taxpayers are happy. They're recipients of the more than 2.6 million refunds that the IRS issued by Feb. 2.

The dollar total of those early refunds was almost $3.7 billion, producing an average refund of $1,395.

Of course, the numbers will grow as more of us focus on our 2023 tax year returns.

And that means that more of us will be asking the perennial question, Where's my refund?

Here are some answers.

A required hold until Feb. 15: Many early filers get refunds because they are eligible for tax credits, which provide a dollar-for-dollar offset of any tax you owe. In a few cases, those credits are refundable, meaning that once your tax bill is zeroed out, any excess credit comes back to you as a refund.

But a couple of refundable credits actually slow down the receipt of your refund.

Federal law prohibits the IRS from issuing refunds to filers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15.

While that date is almost here, the reality of the tax processing system means that EITC/ACTC related refunds most likely won't arrive in mailboxes or be directly deposited into bank accounts until the end of February.

21-day delivery goal: The IRS goal is to issue most refunds in less than 21 calendar days. However, that time frame is affected by how your file and how you want to get your tax cash.

If you snail mailed a paper tax return, it could take four weeks or more for the IRS to process your return and issue your refund.

That delay is one of the main reasons that most taxpayers, either on their own or via a tax preparer, file their taxes electronically. And 80 percent of filers have their refunds directly deposited.

The IRS says the combination of e-filing and getting your refund delivered straight to a bank account is the fastest way to receive your money. In these cases, more than 90 percent of refunds arrive in less than 21 days.

Bank account and routing numbers_smallIt's easy to have your refund directly deposited.

First, find your financial institution's account number and routing number. For most of us, that account data is found on your paper checks, as shown at right.

Then just enter those numbers in the appropriate lines directly on your Form 1040, as shown in the form excerpt below.

Form 1040 refund direct deposit bank account numbers


You can use direct deposit even if you still are filing a paper return. Just enter the account numbers by hand.

Regardless of which filing method you use, double check your entries before dropping your return in a U.S. Postal Service box or hitting send on your computer keyboard or e-filing app.

Checking up on your refund: OK, you filed. You know that there's a bit of a turnaround time. But you're impatient.

You want to know, just where the heck is your federal tax refund?

via GIPHY

The IRS understands. That's why it created Where's My Refund? It's also why the agency made some improvements to the online refund tracking tool.

You can start checking on the status of your refund at Where's My Refund? within

  • 24 hours after you e-file your tax year 2023 return;
  • 3 or 4 days after e-filing a tax year 2021 or 2022 return; or
  • 4 weeks after mailing a return.

To find out your refund's status, you'll need to provide your Social Security number or individual taxpayer ID number (ITIN), filing status, and exact whole dollar amount of your expected refund.

Once you get into the IRS.gov refund tracker, it will provide users three specific dates in the processing of a refund. They are —

  1. Return Received, which is when the IRS received your return and began processing it.
  2. Refund Approved, which indicates that the IRS approved your refund and are preparing to issue it by the date shown.
  3. Refund Sent, which lets your know that the IRS sent your refund to your bank or dropped it in the mail.

As for that that key, third component, the IRS says it may take up to five days for your directly deposited refund to show up in your bank account. When mailed, it could take several weeks to arrive.

Where's My Refund? this year also is using bot voice technology, which the IRS says should provide taxpayers answers more quickly, especially where there is an issue with a refund. This includes specifics on why a refund is taking longer than expected, and what the taxpayer can to help move the process forward.

Even if the Where's My Refund? answer is not necessarily the one you wanted, at least you know your refund is making its way through the system.

You also might find these items of interest:

 

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