How to Track Your Federal Income Tax Refund and How Fast You’ll Get It

by Kevin on April 15, 2011

By this point I’m hoping the majority of you have filed your federal income tax return for last year. Today is April 15th, but you technically still have until the 18th to file this year.

For those of you that have filed you are likely wondering where exactly your refund is at. When will you get it? How fast is the normal turn around on tax filings? You’re looking to track your progress through the government’s system so you can anticipate the money landing in your bank account.

Today we’ll walk through:

  • how to check on whether or not your your filing was accepted
  • how to check where in the process your filing currently is at
  • when you can expect to see your refund
  • how fast you will normally get your refund

Tools to Check Your Federal Tax Return’s Status

The IRS has a multitude of options that can be used to check your tax return’s status. The most common is to go to Where’s My Refund?, the official government site used to check your filing status online. If you don’t have internet access or can’t seem to get the website to work you can always call the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954 or the IRS TeleTax System at 800-829-4477. You can even use the Internal Revenue Service’s handy iPhone or Android app (and yes, it works beautifully).

You will need key parts of information from your return in order to access your status. This is to protect your information — only you (or your tax preparer) should know:

  • Your Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Your filing status (single, head of household, married filing joint, etc.)
  • The exact whole dollar amount of your refund

Was My Tax Return Accepted?

The easiest way to tell if your return was accepted or not is if your tax software gives you a Declaration Control Number (DCN). This is a 14 digit code that is generated with a majority of e-filing software after your return has been accepted.

Has My Return Been Processed?

You can check to see whether or not your return was processed through the IRS options above. The website and phone application are the fastest and easiest methods to finding out.

When Will I Get My Tax Refund?

When you are checking your filing status you should see a refund date as seen in the image above from the IRS’ Android application. Before my return was accepted I was unable to find my information in the system. A few days after submitting and getting an acceptance of the return, I was able to log in and check where in the process my refund was located. As you can see it shows that I should receive my refund by April 19th. (It may come before that, but that’s when it is expected.)

If you login to Where’s My Refund? you get a similar message in plain text on the webpage.

How Fast Refunds are Normally Paid

Now that you know your refund is coming, how fast can you realistically expect it to arrive? It all depends on your filing status. If you sent in a paper tax form it will be a while. (Another reason to not file via paper: if the government shuts down the people looking at your return aren’t at work. Delayed return for you.)

If you e-file online and select the direct deposit option you will normally get your refund within 10 business days of your return being accepted. That’s pretty fast by any standard, especially government standards. If you e-file but get a paper check it might take a little bit longer, but nothing like filing a paper return and waiting on a paper check back.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

ross April 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I would definitely recommend e-filing with a direct deposit if you are expecting a refund. I got my refund wired to me in about 10 days after i e-filed. I had never done that before and i was really shocked to receive it so quickly.

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