Where’s My Refund? How to Locate Your Check From Uncle Sam

You filed your tax return on time in April and now it’s almost June and Uncle Sam still hasn’t sent your refund check. What gives?

Normally, it takes about 10-21 days to get a refund, and if you file electronically and indicate direct deposit of the refund it will likely take even less time. If you paper file your tax return and are expecting a paper check from the IRS, you can expect to wait four or more weeks. If it’s been longer than that, there may be a problem.

Thankfully, nowadays it’s quick and easy to find out what’s going on with your refund by checking the IRS website. Go to the Where's My Refund? Tab on the right-hand side of the IRS home page, or use the IRS2Go smartphone app.

Once there, enter your Social Security number, your filing status and the exact amount of the refund you are expecting. You will instantly receive a message telling you either when the refund was or will be issued, or to call a particular phone number where you can discuss the status or the reason your refund is being delayed or withheld.

If you’re notified that your refund is delayed, it is probably due to errors on your income tax return that must first be resolved. The most likely being incorrect Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse or your dependents. This is one reason electronic filing is preferred over mailing a paper copy to the IRS. A problem with a Social Security number can be fixed more easy since the  file will be immediately kicked back with a message as to the needed correction.

If you filed Form 8379 Injured Spouse Allocation, it normally takes at least two months to process and provide an anticipated refund.

Rather than being delayed, your refund may have been withheld or partially withheld in order to satisfy the following:

  1. Taxes owed by you or your spouse to the IRS for prior year liabilities,
  2.  Delinquent student loan payments,
  3. Back child support,
  4. Delinquent state income taxes

If you are given a date to expect your refund and you want it expedited, forget about it. It won’t help to call the IRS and ask them to hurry it along. No one can help you with that. It would be a waste of time to make the phone call and sit there on hold forever only to be told no.

The “Where’s my refund” tool is not available to provide information on amended tax returns, business tax returns, or for taxes filed for prior years. For business tax returns, call 1.800.829.4933. For all other tax returns, call 1.800.829.1040.

Bonnie Lee is an Enrolled Agent admitted to practice and representing taxpayers in all fifty states at all levels within the Internal Revenue Service. She is the owner of Taxpertise in Sonoma, CA and the author of Entrepreneur Press book, “Taxpertise, The Complete Book of Dirty Little Secrets and Hidden Deductions for Small Business that the IRS Doesn't Want You to Know.” Follow Bonnie Lee on Twitter at BLTaxpertise and at Facebook