Tax refund time is something a lot of Americans look forward to. They can pay off debt accrued over the holiday season, pay for the summer family vacation, or help fund a big purchase.
In most cases, federal income tax refunds are issued by the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, within 21 days of you filing your income taxes and having that return accepted by the IRS. In some cases, however, it can take a lot longer, depending on how complex your tax situation is. Self-employed individuals and business owners, for instance, or those with foreign investments or a lot of real estate might take more time for the IRS to finish and accept.
Is the IRS Refund Tracker Accurate?
In an effort to help Americans keep track of when they can expect their returns, the IRS maintains both a website and a mobile app that can tell you where in the process your tax return is and when you can expect your refund to either show up in your bank account or arrive by check. In most cases, the projected date is correct; if it says your refund will show up on a specific day, you can usually count on it being there by the end of business on that date.
Sometimes, however, the app gets it wrong. If you have a complex tax situation, you’re dealing with additional forms, or you’ve made errors in your return filing, you could see a significant delay.
The regular Form 1040 can be complicated enough to fill out; adding in additional data for itemized deductions, multiple real estate holdings, investments, or other situations can make it more difficult for the IRS to finish your return and check all of your math.
Even small clerical errors—such as a transposed number in your child’s Social Security number or date of birth—can affect the timing of your refund.
Where Can I Access the IRS Refund Tracker?
If you have a smartphone, you can look on Google Play or the Apple App Store to get a copy of the IRS2GO app, which will let you know what stage your return is in and when you can expect it. If you aren’t a smartphone user, you can also visit the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website.
When Should I Download the IRS Refund Tracker?
The IRS says that 90 percent of all tax refunds are issued within the 21-day window, so if you’ve filed less than 21 days ago, you probably don’t need to download the app or spend time on the website looking for your refund. Give it at least until the 21 days are up.
If it’s been longer than 21 days, however, you can check the “Where’s My Refund?” website or download the IRS2GO app. If there are errors in your return, additional documentation is needed, or some other problem with your return, you can find out right away.
While the IRS will send you mail outlining what else they still need, knowing up front can offer you the time to get everything you’ll need so that you can act on it right away when you receive your notice.
In the rare case of the app or website not offering any real information, if it’s been more than four weeks since you filed your return, you’ll want to call the IRS and ensure that your taxes were received. Unfortunately, you’ll likely have a long hold time, but you’ll be able to get ahead of any problems arising from your return being lost.
The IRS deals with literally hundreds of millions of tax returns each year, so the chances of you eventually running into a snag or having a hard time tracking your refund at least once are pretty high. In most cases, however, technology has made it a lot easier for the IRS to let you know where you stand in the tax refund process—and how soon you can spend your refund.