Eager for Your Tax Refund? Track It!

E-FileEvery year, many American taxpayers make big plans for their Tax Refunds - like paying off a big bill in one lump sum, putting a down payment on a new car, or taking a long-awaited trip. With such exciting plans, once you have found out how much you would be getting back, completed your tax return, and dropped it in the mail or e-filed, the wait can be frustrating. It can feel like your Tax Refund is stuck out in Limbo somewhere, and you have no power to hurry it along or even know when it will arrive.

Well, today's taxpayers are in luck: Although you still can't rush the IRS, gone are the days when you simply had to cross your fingers and check your mailbox every day for weeks on end. In our ever-more-digital world, not only are taxes processed more quickly than in yesteryear (an average of 3 weeks for e-filed as opposed to about 12 weeks just two decades ago), but the progress of your Tax Refund can be tracked - by phone, online, or even on your mobile device - especially if you filed electronically.

In 2003, the Internal Revenue Service instituted its "Where's My Refund?" web page, so that taxpayers could track their eagerly-awaited refunds online. Since then, the process has become even quicker and easier, with a toll-free phone number and mobile app for the same purpose. Optimally, with these tools you should be able to see the progress of your return only 24 hours after the IRS receives it electronically - so if you really want to keep an eye on the progress of your Tax Refund, e-filing is the way to go. If you complete your return by hand and mail it via snail-mail to the IRS, you may still have to wait up to four weeks before you can track it via the IRS's digital tools.

Whether you requested a check in the mail or opted for direct deposit into your bank account (or even multiple accounts), you can use one or all of these IRS Tax Refund tracking tools to locate your money:

  • Where's My Refund? Online: Go to www.irs.gov/Refunds, and click on the link to the Where's My Refund? start page. You will need to have some information on hand, including your Social Security number, the filing status you used on your return, and your expected refund amount. If you filed jointly with your spouse, the information for the first person shown on the return should be used. Important: Be as precise as possible - don't abbreviate words or round your numbers.

  • Toll-free Refund Status Line: The IRS has an automated toll-free phone line for tracking refunds as well. The number is (800) 829-1954. You should have the same information (above) at hand before you call, and it is a good idea to keep a pencil and paper handy in case you need to jot down any information or follow-up numbers.

  • IRS2Go: The newest Tax Refund tracking tool is the Internal Revenue Service's mobile app, IRS2Go. Not only can you track your refund via your smartphone or tablet via this app, but you can also sign up for IRS tax updates, and even follow the IRS on Twitter, among other capabilities and helpful information. The app is available free at the Android Market and the Apple App Store.

With any of these helpful tracking tools, you can see the date your return was accepted and the date the refund was sent in the mail or directly deposited into your account. If you get the bad news that your check was returned to the IRS for insufficient address, you may even be able to fix the problem right there online. And if your Tax Refund check is somehow lost in transit, and has not arrived within 28 days of when the tracker says it was mailed out, you can run an online refund trace as well.