Need your income tax refund and still don’t have it? Track it with IRS tools

Find out here how to track the tax money you’re owed from the IRS. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

May 17 is Tax Day, and that’s just a little more than a week away. If you haven’t completed your 2020 taxes yet, you’ll need to either file your tax return or request an extension from the IRS before the deadline. If you already filed but you’re still waiting on your refund, you can check on its status using these IRS tools. 

Whether you e-filed or mailed a paper return, there are two trackers that will tell you if the IRS has received your tax return, if the agency is currently processing it or when your refund was sent or deposited. This season, the IRS is taking more time than usual to process paper returns, and there could be other delays holding up refunds. We can help you use these tools to track down your refund. 

You can also use the IRS’ refund-status tools if you claimed missing stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes. And if you think your third stimulus check is missing or held up, the agency has an app for you to track the status of that. Here’s some of what we know about filing an amended tax formother credits and benefits related to COVID and a possible fourth stimulus payment. If you have children, you’ll want to know how much money you could get with child tax credits. If you were getting unemployment benefits last year, you may qualify for a tax break and get a higher amount with your refund. Did you know you may also qualify for a discount on your internet bill? This story was recently updated. 

How to track your income tax refund 

To track the status of your tax refund, you need several things on hand: Your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — single, married or head of household — and your refund amount in whole dollars, which you can find on your tax return. Also, make sure it’s been at least 24 hours before you try tracking your refund.

Using the IRS tool Where’s My Refund, enter your SSN or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Submit. If you entered your information correctly, you’ll be taken to a page that shows your refund status. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, you’ll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with whether you filed electronically or on paper.

The IRS also has a mobile app, called IRS2Go, that checks your tax refund status. The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight, so if you don’t see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the following day.

Now playing:
Watch this:

Your tax questions answered in 3 minutes


What your tax return status messages mean

Both the IRS tools (online and mobile app) will show you one of three messages to explain your tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if you’re owed one.
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank via direct deposit or as a paper check to your mailbox. (Here’s how to change your address on file if you moved.)

Waiting for your tax refund and possible delays

The IRS usually issues tax refunds within 21 days, and many people get their refunds much sooner. However, this year, the IRS is facing delays due to a variety of complications, and some taxpayers are expected to face longer wait times to receive their payments. 

If there are any errors, it might take the agency longer to process and issue your tax refund. The same goes for people who filed a claim for an earned income tax credit or the child tax credit. (Here’s who qualifies for the child tax credit.)

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. For example, with refunds going into your bank account via direct deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post it to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you may be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. 

If you submitted your tax return by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks for your tax refund to arrive. That’s where tracking your refund comes in handy. Here are some possible dates when you could receive your refund if you filed or plan to file electronically.

When your tax refund could arrive, if no additional delay

If you file or filed on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
March 1 March 8 March 22
April 1 April 8 April 22
April 15 April 22 May 6
May 17 (last day to file) May 24 June 7
Oct. 15 (last day with extension) Oct. 22 Nov. 5

Why your tax refund might not have arrived yet

The IRS has a list of reasons your refund could potentially be held up.

  • Your tax return has errors.
  • It’s incomplete.
  • Your refund has been affected by identity theft or fraud.
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • Your return needs further review.
  • Your return includes Form 8379 (PDF), injured spouse allocation — this could take 14 weeks to process.

Is calling the IRS an option? 

While you can technically call the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited right now, so you may wait on hold for a while to speak to a representative. Also, the IRS says you should only call if it’s been 21 or more days since you filed your taxes online, or if the Where’s My Refund tool tells you to contact the IRS.

For more information about your 2020 taxes, here’s how to claim missing stimulus money on your taxes and everything to know about the third stimulus check.