Where’s My Tax Refund? How to Check Your Refund Status

Tax Refunds Man checking his refund status

The average direct deposit tax refund was close to $3,000 last tax season, and with tax season well underway, it’s no surprise that the most common tax season-related question we’re now hearing is: “Where’s my refund?”

TurboTax is now accepting tax returns, which means you’re one step closer to receiving your maximum tax refund. When you file, TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your entries, so you don’t have to worry about knowing tax laws when you file.

If you have questions, you can even connect live via a one-way video to a TurboTax Live tax expert, available in English and Spanish year-round, who can review, sign, file your return or even prepare your taxes from start to finish.

If you’ve already filed – the IRS began accepting e-filed tax returns for the tax year 2020 on February 12, 2021 – and are wondering when you will receive your tax refund, we have the scoop.

Keep reading for a breakdown of IRS processing times, and how your tax return will progress through three stages with the IRS (“Return Received,” “Return Approved,” and “Refund Sent” once you e-file with direct deposit), where you can go to check your refund status, and answers to some of the other refund-related questions you may have: 

Tax Refund Processing Time 

  • E-filed tax returns with direct deposit: E-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get your federal tax refund. The IRS states that they will issue nine out of 10 tax refunds within 21 days after acceptance. The IRS began accepting e-filed tax returns on February 12th, 2021.
  • Mailed paper returns: Due to COVID-19, the IRS expects delays for paper returns. Usually, the IRS says to allow 4 weeks before checking the status of your refund and that refund processing can take 6 to 8 weeks from the date the IRS receives your return.
  • Refunds with EITC or Additional Child Tax Credit: Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS cannot issue refunds that include Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The PATH Act, which applies to all tax preparation methods, is intended to help detect and prevent tax fraud. The extended refund release also gives the IRS more time to ensure taxpayers are properly claiming the credits, so they get the refund they are owed. This year the IRS anticipates a first week of March refund for many EITC and ACTC filers. 

Tax Refund Process

  • Start checking status 24 – 48 hours after e-file: Once you have e-filed your tax return, you can check your status using the IRS Where’s My Refund? tool. You will need your Social security number or ITIN, your filing status, and your exact refund amount. The IRS began accepting e-filed tax returns on February 12th, 2021.
  • Return Received Notice within 24 – 48 hours after e-file: The IRS Where’s My Refund? tool will show “Return Received” status once they begin processing your tax return. You will need the following information when checking refund status: Social security number or ITIN, your filing status, and your exact federal tax refund amount shown on the tax return. You will not see a tax refund date until the IRS finishes processing your tax return and approves your tax refund.
  • Status change from “Return Received” to “Refund Approved”: Once the IRS finishes processing your tax return and confirms your tax refund is approved, your status will change from “Return Received” to “Refund Approved.” The change in status can take a few days, and a tax refund date will not be provided in Where’s My Refund? until your tax return is processed and your tax refund is approved.
  • Where’s My Refund? tool shows refund date: The IRS will provide a personalized refund date once your status moves to “Refund Approved.” The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds within 21 days of acceptance if you e-file with direct deposit.
  • Where’s My Refund? shows “Refund Sent”: If the status in Where’s My Refund? shows “Refund Sent,” the IRS has sent your tax refund to your financial institution for direct deposit. It can take 1 to 5 days for your financial institution to deposit funds into your account. If you opted to receive your tax refund via mail, it could take several weeks for your check to arrive.

Tax Refund Status FAQ

Will I see a date right away when I check the status in “Where’s My Refund”? 

The IRS Where’s My Refund? tool will not give you a date until your tax return is received, processed, and your tax refund is approved by the IRS.

It’s been longer than 21 days since the IRS has received my tax return and I have not received my tax refund. What’s happening?

Some tax returns take longer than others to process depending on your tax situation. Some of the reasons it may take longer include incomplete information, an error, or the IRS may need to review it further.

I requested my money be automatically deposited into my bank account, but I was mailed a check. What happened?

The IRS is limiting the number of direct deposits that go into a single bank account or prepaid debit card to three tax refunds per year. Your limit may have been exceeded.

Comments (2,004) Leave your comment

  1. It’s my first time filing. How long does it take for me receive my federal refund. I’ve also recently received my state tax. How long do I have to wait.? I worked hard for money and didn’t do anything illegal.

    1. Hi Jocelyn,

      If you have an IRS acknowledgement then they are processing the return. If the return has been accepted then check the status of the tax refund via IRS “Where’s My Refund?” tool, https://www.irs.gov/refunds.

      Please note you will need the following information when checking on your refund status:
      Social security number or ITIN
      Your filing status
      Your exact refund amount

      However, per the IRS; a phone representative can research the status of your refund if it’s been 21 days or more since you filed electronically.

      Thank you

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