IRS Tax Refunds

Show me the refund!

Tax time is here, but this year you’re prepared.  You’ve filled out the forms and filed your returns in a timely manner, pondering future purchases while eagerly awaiting your refund check. But you’ve grown bored with waiting and want to know when you will be getting your tax refund.

No worries, we have answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding IRS refunds.

How can I check the status of my refund at the IRS?

This is a great question, and the answer demonstrates the IRS’ embracing of technology.

For internet users, the IRS has an interactive tool called “Where’s My Refund?” available at http://www.irs.gov. Have your federal tax return nearby, as you’ll need your Social Security Number or Taxpayer ID Number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of the refund shown on your tax return. “Where’s My Refund?” will show if your return was received and if it is being processed, your refund’s mailing or direct deposit date, or a notice that the IRS was unable to deliver your refund due to an incorrect address. Better still, you have access to links with information customized to help you resolve any issues that may be impacting your refund.

For Apple and Android smartphone users, you can check the status of your refund with IRS2GO, the IRS’ first smartphone application. It is free in the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store.

Have no smartphone or don’t like the internet? No problem. You can always phone in and get the status of your refund by calling the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954 or the IRS TeleTax System at 800-829-4477. Both are toll-free and available in English or Spanish. When calling, be sure to have your or your spouse’s Social Security Number, filing status and whole dollar amount of your refund shown on your tax return.

How long does it take to get my refund?

Typically, your refund is issued six to eight weeks from the date the IRS receives your hard copy tax return, and you’ll receive it soon after it is issued. If you choose to file your tax return electronically, you should have your refund in about three weeks. It takes even less time if you choose to receive your refund via direct deposit, which is also more secure as there is no potential for a lost refund check.

Oh, no! I’ve gone and lost my IRS refund check! What do I do?

No need to panic. If your refund check was lost, the first thing to do is initiate a refund trace by calling the IRS at 800-829-1954 (toll-free). If your filing status is Married Filing Jointly, you cannot initiate a trace using the automated system. You must instead download and complete a Form 3911 “Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund.” If you are unable to access the internet, you can ask the IRS to mail you a Form 3911.
The second step is the claim. How the claim proceeds will depend on whether or not your lost check was cashed. If the check was cashed, the Bureau of Fiscal Service, or BFS, provides you with a claim package that includes a copy of the signed check. BFS then reviews your claim and signature on the check to determine if they can issue a replacement check. An investigation by BFS can take up to six weeks. If the check was not cashed, the IRS sends you a replacement check once the original check has been cancelled.

You do not have to spend tax season waiting in the dark for your tax refund. The IRS has embraced technology to provide taxpayers with tools to enable you to know the status of your tax refund.

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Written by Robert V. Boeshaar

Robert V. Boeshaar

Robert V. Boeshaar is a Seattle tax attorney committed to helping individuals and small businesses who are facing problems with the IRS. He believes in using his experience to serve others and to make a difference in their lives.