Check the Status of a Tax Refund

One of the available services on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website at is the opportunity to check on the status of a tax refund that you might be expecting.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry though.  Information is not available immediately after you submit your tax return.  If you e-filed your return, wait until 72 hours after you receive the IRS acknowledgment of receipt of your return.  If you filed a paper return by mail, wait at least three to four weeks.  After that, generally information will be available for you at the IRS website.

At the homepage, down the column on the left hand side of the page, you will see multiple entries under the heading “Forms and Publications” and then below that multiple entries under the heading “Online Services.”  The first item under “Online Services” is “Check on Your Refund.”  This is a link that will take you where you need to go.

Alternately, you can type “where’s my refund” in the search box at the top of the page and click “Search,” and that too will direct you to the proper page.

In order to trace your return, the website will ask you for your social security number, your filing status (i.e., individual or joint), and the amount of your expected refund.  So be sure to have a copy of your return handy or to contact whoever prepared your taxes for you, because you’ll need to know that exact figure, to the nearest whole dollar.

After filling out this information, click on “Submit” and you’ll be taken to a page that shows the status of your return.

Note that there are some types of returns that cannot be traced in this fashion.  This is good only for personal returns; if you need to follow up on a business return you would have to call the IRS.  If the refund you’re waiting for is from an amended tax return, you also would have to call the IRS.

The information usually remains available through the website until December for returns filed prior to July.  For returns filed in July or later, the information usually remains available until the next year when you file a new return.  At any given time, at most what will be available is information on the return for the most recent year.  (Which is not necessarily the return you most recently filed, though normally it is.  But, for instance, if you filed your 2009 return, and then after that filed your 2008 return late, it’s the 2009 return that you’ll be able to follow up on through the IRS website.)