February 26, 2021

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When will your tax refund show up? Here are some dates and how to track it – CNET

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We’ll show you how to track your tax refund.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The IRS is now accepting 2020 tax returns. Did you know that 24 hours after you file your taxes online, you can begin tracking your tax refund? Plus, the sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you could get your 2020 refund, including missing stimulus check money through the Recovery Rebate Credit

Setting up direct deposit is another way to get your money in hand more quickly. If a third stimulus check is approved — and here’s the third payment timeline so far — your household’s total stimulus payment would be delivered as a refundable tax credit in advance payments (PDF). In addition, if you earned less in 2020 than the year before, you might be eligible for a larger third stimulus check if you file your taxes before the new payment is approved. (Here’s how.)

This year, the IRS is asking taxpayers to avoid filing paper returns, if possible, to keep from compounding a current processing delay caused by a backlog from last year (remember, the 2019 tax season was extended because of the COVID-19 pandemic). Also — and this is important — if you file a paper return, you won’t be able to start tracking your refund for at least four weeks. Below we’ll walk you through how to track your 2020 refund after you file your tax return.

These two IRS tools let you track your refund — here’s how

Before you start trying to track your tax refund this year, there are several things you’ll need on hand. Your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), your filing status — for example, single, married, head of household — and your exact refund amount in whole dollars, which can be found on your tax return.

Using the IRS’ tool Where’s My Refund, enter your Social Security number or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Send. If you entered your information correctly, you’ll be taken to a page that shows the status of your refund. 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 how you filed — either electronically or on paper.

There’s also a mobile app you can use to check your tax refund status called IRS2Go, which is useful if you’re constantly checking to see when your refund will arrive. 

The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight each day, so if you don’t see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the next day.

Now playing: Watch this: Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know


IRS site will mark your return one of these two ways

When looking at the status of your tax refund, you could see one of two things.

  • Received: This means the IRS now has your tax return and is working on processing it.
  • Approved: This means the IRS has approved your return and your refund is on the way to your bank or mailbox. 

How long will it take your tax refund to get to you?

The IRS says it issues most tax refunds within 21 days, but many will get theirs far sooner. It can take the IRS longer to send your tax refund if there are any errors, or if you filed a claim for an Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit. But it also depends on how you filed your return. 

For example, if the refund is getting directly deposited into your bank account, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post it to your account. This means if it took the IRS 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you could be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. That’s where tracking your refund comes in handy. 

If it’s being sent by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks to arrive.  Here are some possible dates when you could receive your refund depending on when you applied.

When to expect your tax refund

If you file on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
Feb 14 Feb 21 Mar 7
Mar 1 Mar 8 Mar 22
Apr 1 Apr 8 Apr 22
Apr 15 (last day to file) Apr 22 May 6
Oct 15 (last day with extension) Oct 22 Nov 5

Can you call the IRS to check your status?

While you can call the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time, so you could be waiting 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 taxes, here’s when the 2021 deadline is to file your tax returnhow to claim missing stimulus money on your taxes and the real reason you should sign up for direct deposit on your 2020 taxes.


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