When will your tax refund arrive? Possible dates, and how to track it – CNET

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We’ll show you how to track your tax refund.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The IRS has started accepting 2020 tax returns, as of Friday, Feb. 12. And 24 hours after filing your taxes online, you can begin tracking your refund using a nifty tool crafted by the IRS. This tool is the best way to see when your return has been received by the IRS and when your tax refund has been approved.

If you file your taxes early, you’ll get your 2020 refund back sooner — including your missing stimulus check money, if any is owed to you (here’s how you claim a Recovery Rebate Credit with the IRS) — assuming there aren’t any errors. Setting up direct deposit is another way to ensure you receive your money quicker. If a third stimulus check is approved — and here’s the third payment timeline so far — your household’s total stimulus payment would be paid as a refundable tax credit in advance payments (PDF). 

Note that the IRS is asking taxpayers to avoid filing paper returns this year, if possible, to keep from compounding a current processing delay caused by a backlog from last year (remember, Tax Season 2019 was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic). Also, if you file a paper return, you’ll have to wait at least four weeks before you can start tracking your refund. Below we’ll walk you through how to track your 2020 refund after you file your tax return next month.

Here’s how to track your tax refund using two IRS tools

Before you start trying to track your tax refund this year, there are several things you’ll need on hand. Your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), your filing status — for example, single, married, 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 how you filed — either electronically or on paper.

There’s also a mobile app you can use to check your tax refund status called IRS2Go, which is useful if you’re constantly checking to see when your refund will arrive. 

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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What your tax return status means on the IRS’ site

When looking at the status of your tax refund, you could see one of two things.

  • Received: This means the IRS now has your tax return and is working on processing it.
  • Approved: This means the IRS has approved your return and your refund is on the way to your bank or mailbox. 
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You can expect your refund to be issued within 21 days. 


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How long will it take to get my tax refund?

The IRS says it issues most tax refunds within 21 days, but many will get theirs far sooner. On the flipside, it can also take the IRS longer to send your tax refund if there are any errors, or if there’s a claim filed for an Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit. But it also depends on how you filed your return. 

For example, if the refund is getting directly deposited into your bank account, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post it to your account. This means if it took the IRS 21 days to issue your check and 5 days for your bank to post it, you could be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. That’s where tracking your refund comes in handy. 

If it’s being sent by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks to arrive.  Here are some possible dates for when you could receive your refund.

When to expect your tax refund

If you file on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
Feb. 12 Feb. 19 March 5
March 1 March 8 March 22
April 1 April 8 April 22
April 15 (last day to file) April 22 May 6
Oct. 15 (last day with extension) Oct. 22 Nov. 5

Can I call the IRS to check my status?

While you can call the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time, so you could be waiting on hold a while to speak to a representative. Also, the IRS says you should only call if it has 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 returnhow to claim missing stimulus money on your taxes and the real reason you should sign up for direct deposit on your 2020 taxes.