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Tax refund proving elusive? There may be a reason for that. We’ll show you two ways to try to hunt it down. Sarah Tew/CNET
The IRS is sending third stimulus checks out, all while trying to process tax returns at the same time. And if you’ve already filed — Tax Day is now May 17 if you haven’t — you’re likely expecting your tax refund to arrive any day now. But with the IRS tied up in the $1,400 check deliveries, it’s causing complications and delays, which could impact when you get your refund.
To give yourself a better idea of when your money might arrive, you can check the status of your 2020 tax return online 24 hours after filing. There are actually two ways to track your refund and we’ll explain both. Note that if you paid taxes on unemployment benefits, the IRS announced it will refund that money to eligible recipients starting in May.
Check out our chart below for some possible dates your refund could arrive. Also, if you still need to file, we suggest doing so online, since e-filing is more convenient for both you and the IRS — the agency is asking people to avoid sending in a paper return this year. We also recommend setting up direct deposit to get your refund sooner. (This is everything we know so far about a fourth stimulus check, and here are seven tax breaks for 2020.) This story was updated recently.
© Sarah Tew/CNET
Track your 2020 tax refund status online: 2 easy ways to do it
You need several things on hand to track the status of your tax refund: your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — for example, single, married or 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 whether you filed electronically or on paper.
There’s also a mobile app, called IRS2Go, that you can use to check your tax refund status. 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.
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Received, approved, sent: What your tax return status means
Both the IRS tools (online and mobile) 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 now if you moved.)
When could you get your tax refund? We’ve listed some possible dates
The IRS says it issues most tax refunds within 21 days, but many people typically get their refunds much sooner. However, this year, the IRS is reportedly facing delays complicated by sending out the stimulus checks now (here’s more on stimulus checks and tax season 2020). 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 CTC).
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 your tax return is being sent by mail, however, 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 depending on when you filed.
If it’s past the ‘latest’ date for my refund to arrive, should I call the IRS for an update?
While you can technically call the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time, 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 taxes, here’s when the 2021 deadline is to file your tax return, how to claim missing stimulus money on your taxes and everything to know about the third stimulus check.
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