How to Track Your 2021 Federal Tax Refund


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The filing deadline to submit 2021 tax returns is right around the corner on Monday, April 18, 2022. Some of us filed as quickly as possible, while others are currently scrambling to get it done in the next two weeks. Buy for everyone, the question remains: How long do you have to wait to get your federal tax refund?

As previously reported, the Treasury Department warned at the start of this year that the IRS will face “enormous challenges,” largely due to the ongoing backlog of unprocessed returns from last year, among other issues. Many Americans are still waiting on their 2020 returns, and the 2022 season is expected to be similarly full of major delays.

Here’s how to track your federal tax refund—and what experts are saying about when you can expect to see it.

When should you expect to see your tax refund?

According to the IRS, most taxpayers should receive their refunds within 21 days of e-filing. If you filed by mail, you could have to wait more than than four weeks.

However, many experts (and a small blurb at the bottom of this IRS page) say that not all taxpayers should rely on receiving their funds within that 21 day window. In addition to staffing and backlog issues within the IRS, here are some of the reasons your tax returns might be delayed:

  • Needs a correction to the Recovery Rebate Credit amount
  • Needs a correction to the Child Tax Credit amount
  • Is incomplete
  • Is affected by identity theft or fraud
  • Includes a claim filed for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit using 2019 income.
  • Includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation PDF, which could take up to 14 weeks to process
  • Needs further review in general

So if you filed early, accurately, and electronically, you should be within the 90% of taxpayers who receive their refund within 21 days.

Where’s your refund?

Constantly tracking the status of your refund won’t make it come any faster, but it can at least grant some peace of mind while you wait.

You can begin checking the IRS’ “Where’s My Refund?” site 24 hours after you e-file to track the current status of your return and when the IRS sends your refund. If you mailed your return, you have to wait four weeks to use this site.

To check your refund status with “Where’s My Refund?,” you’ll need to input your social security number or ITIN, your filing status, and your exact refund amount. A “refund status results” bar displays when your return has been received, approved, and sent.

What if it’s been longer than 21 days?

Don’t file a second tax return. If it’s been more than 21 days since e-filing, the IRS recommends that you call them. The “Where’s My Refund?” tracker will also prompt you to call the IRS if need be.

Unfortunately, calling the IRS isn’t exactly a breezy, reliable solution. ​​ In 2021, callers reached a real IRS employee only 11% of the time. Once you build the resolve to call the IRS, here’s our guide to increase your odds of getting to a real human on the other end of the line.