Are you expecting to receive money back from the IRS this year? Do you have big plans for your refund? Chances are, you are probably wondering when it will arrive.
Fortunately, tracking your refund status is simple and secure. The IRS provides access through their website, so you don’t need to wait on the phone for hours.
IRS Online Tracking Tool
The IRS offers a free online tool so you can track your refund anytime. Within 24 hours of e-filing your tax returns, you can access it and find your refund status. However, if you file by paper and US mail, it may take up to four weeks to show up on the website.
The IRS also provides an app for iPhone, Android, and Amazon devices called IRS2Go. With the app, you can check the status of a refund, make a payment, find free tax help, connect with the IRS social media accounts, and receive security codes.
If the tool says the refund was sent, but your bank account does not agree, don’t panic. It can take a few days for the bank to credit your account, particularly if it was sent on a weekend or holiday. However, if you don’t see it within a week, call the IRS to get more information.
Tips for Receiving a Fast Refund
If you want your refund as soon as possible, use the IRS e-file option with a direct deposit. Typically, the IRS processes electronic submissions within 21 days if you set up a direct deposit.
If you haven’t received the fund after 21 days, fire up the IRS “Where’s My Refund” website or the IRS2Go app and check on the status. You can also call if you have questions about the current status. The IRS will help you find out what happened, so you can collect the money.
The earliest date the IRS will deposit refunds is January 29. If you e-file your return by January 14, you should receive your refund before February 1.
The IRS will provide the fastest refund when you:
- Use the IRS e-file option
- Opt for direct deposit
- Use the website or app to check after 24 hours
- Call the IRS after 21 days if you have not received it (wait 6 weeks if you mailed paper forms)
You will need to provide some information:
- Social Security number or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
- Amount of the expected refund
- Filing status (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, etc.)
It’s also a good idea to call the IRS if your website status directs you to call, or it’s been more than 16 weeks since you submitted an amended tax return.
Reasons Your Refund Might Be Delayed
Occasionally, the IRS delays a refund. Some of the things that might cause delay are:
- Errors are on your tax return
- Incomplete tax return
- Amended tax return
- Victim of fraud or identity theft
- Claimed special tax credits
- Submitted additional, uncommon forms
- The IRS needs to review your return further
What Will You Do with Your Refund?
It always feels good to receive a big check, particularly from the government. For some, it feels like hitting the lottery because sometimes it’s a bigger check than they see all year.
While some people spend the money on consumables like TVs, games or vacations, you could invest your money instead.
Financial advisors recommend using your tax refund money to pay off debts and get ahead. Or, start an emergency fund if you do not have one already. Alternatively, you could put it toward your retirement. Make a contribution to your IRA account, and watch it grow over time.
Is It Better to Receive a Larger Refund?
While everyone loves to get a cash “gift,” a tax refund is actually your own money. The higher your refund, the more you overpaid your taxes all year. Essentially, you made yourself live on less of your own money all year to have a modest jackpot the following year.
Also, overpaying your taxes and receiving a refund means you provided the federal government with an interest-free loan all year.
Consider if the IRS sent you a $3,600 refund. Sounds great, right? If you divide $3,600 by 12 months, it means you overpaid $300 each month. Wouldn’t an extra $300 per month help you? It could cover bills, pay unnecessary debts, finance skipped dentist appointments.
If you’d rather have that money now instead of later, talk with your employer about amending your W-4 withholdings.
Get More IRS Help
If you have questions about your IRS refund or returns, or just need help filling out the forms, you can call the IRS hotline at 800-829-1040. It’s easier to reach a customer service rep early in the tax season, like January or February.