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Where Is My Federal Tax Refund? What To Do If You Don’t Receive It

You’re here because you’ve been asking yourself, “Where is my federal tax refund?” You’ve already submitted your tax returns (hopefully on time to avoid penalties) and are now looking forward to extra money. The anxiety is not fun, but the good news is you can know the status. This guide will show you the factors affecting the tax refund and the process on how to check the refund status online.

Where Is My Federal Tax Refund? | Keep Calm and Follow These Options

In This Article:

When Will I Get My Tax Refund?

“Where is my federal tax refund?” is one of the most common questions people ask concerning their taxes. Let’s face it, not everyone enjoys giving money to the government. The refund can also help you in so many ways.

The next question is when you can check your federal tax refund status.

Do You Qualify For IRS Back Tax Relief? Take The Quiz Now!

First, and this may seem obvious, – but you cannot get a refund until you’ve filed your taxes. Even if you’ve received all your important federal tax forms (for instance, W2s or 1099s), you still have to do it. Then the tax refund schedule can vary.

Assuming it’s complete and accurate, you’ll receive it in a standard window. For a paper return, this is between six to eight weeks. For an e-filed income tax return, it’s usually three weeks or less. If you opted for direct deposit, these numbers shrink further.

You should stop worrying if it hasn’t been that long. If you want to speed up the time for your income tax refund in the future, choose direct deposit. The government appreciates this. It’s a more secure way of delivering money to the taxpayers. Plus, it doesn’t take the U.S. Treasury as long to issue an electronic refund as it does to issue a paper check.

If you would like to select this option, you simply have to fill in the direct deposit information on your tax return. Specifically, look in the “Refund” section. If you work with a tax preparer, ask them. Note direct deposit is also available for those who choose to file electronically.

Where’s My Amended Refund?

If you’ve recently filed an amended return for the previous year, you may also be waiting for that refund. The question “Where is my federal tax refund?” has a slightly different answer then for current-year returns.

For one thing, you must send in a physical copy of an amended return. That takes longer to be received and processed. Also, the IRS goes over amended refunds more carefully. This further lengthens the process.

Additionally, the IRS doesn’t offer direct deposit for this type of return. They’ll be mailing a paper check to your house, which takes considerably longer.

Make sure your address is correct, or you’ll be waiting even longer. The address on the return should be your current address, not the one you were living in when you first filed the return.

Overall, amended IRS tax refund typically takes between 8 and 12 weeks. Sometimes, you’ll get a refund for a current year and an amended return in the same year. Don’t expect them to come together in the mail.

Where Is My Federal Tax Refund? How to Check the Status

Luckily, the IRS provides a site directly geared toward answering the question, “Where is my federal tax refund?” You can now check your online refund status here. To check your return, you will need several pieces of information. These include the following:

  • Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number
  • Filing status
  • The exact amount of your refund

If you sent a paper copy of your return, you can begin checking for your refund in four weeks’ time. If you filed electronically, you may check the status of your return within 24 hours. This system only updates once a day. You can check every day, but there’s no point in doing it over and over throughout the day.

It’s a reliable way to check on your return. Hundreds of millions of people use it every year to find out the status of their return. Its popularity is growing all the time. Because it’s so useful to taxpayers and convenient for the IRS, they keep it well updated.

Do You Qualify For IRS Back Tax Relief? Take The Quiz Now!

If you have trouble using this online feature, you can check IRS refund status by phone. The IRS refund phone number is 1-800-829-4477. As with the online tax refund tracker, you’ll need a few details. These include your Social Security number or the first Social Security number listed on the return. You’ll also provide your filing status and refund amount.

If your return is already processed, you can learn the date your refund will arrive. If it hasn’t been processed yet, you can call back in a week find out more. In order to use this number, you must have filed at least 4 weeks ago.

Why Is the Refund Delayed?

If you’ve not received your tax refund within the standard amount of time, there may be a reason for the delay. Common reasons include:

  • Missing crucial information on the form
  • Failure to sign the return
  • Neglect in attaching the necessary documents needed to process it
  • Calculation errors that cause the return to become inaccurate, requiring the IRS to go through it, correct it, or ask you for more information if needed
  • Data on the return that doesn’t match current IRS records, such as an incorrect Social Security number, individual taxpayer identification number, or name
  • Payment of a tax service from your refund amount, such as the service offered by H&R Block, which may cause a slight delay as they receive their fee
  • Busy times of the year, such as right after the filing deadline or the extension deadline, during which the IRS is backlogged and may not be able to get to your return as quickly as otherwise
  • A strange fraudulent activity that causes the IRS to become suspicious
  • Extra security measures recently added to reduce tax fraud, which may result in delays through no fault of your own
  • Failure of tax return websites to follow the necessary security procedures

Depending on the reason for the delay and whether or not the IRS worries about the validity of a return, you may receive a paper check even if you requested direct deposit. For reasons discussed above, this will put off your refund by weeks.

If you’ve waited for the allotted amount of time and still have not seen a refund, it’s possible your refund got stolen. In that case, it’s critical you contact the IRS right away. Their number is 1-800-829-1040.

Why Is the Refund Lower?

Sometimes, taxpayers receive the refunds in good time, only to discover the amount is lower than they thought. In this case, it’s possible your refund was adjusted. This is known as an offset. If it occurs, it’s because you have debt and the government is paying it out of your refund. Multiple federal and state agencies have the authorization to do so under the Treasury Offset Program, overseen by Financial Management Services. You may have outstanding debt due to:

  • Non-tax debts, such as student loan payments
  • Failure to pay child support
  • State tax debts that get paid for out of your federal refund
  • State unemployment compensation debts

When you received your refund, Financial Management Services will already have deducted the amount. The change in the amount shouldn’t delay your refund, though. Whether you requested direct deposit or paper check, the tax return money should arrive in the same amount of time.

You should also receive a notice from Financial Management Services explaining the reason for the offset. It will contain the name of the agency to which the payment went. It will also have information about how to contact them. If you believe the offset was in error, call them right away.

If you have further questions or cannot resolve the issue, call the Treasury Offset Program Call Center. Their number is 1-800-304-3107.

Where’s My State Refund?

The above should take care of any questions you may have about your federal tax refund. Some people, though, also have concerns about their state refund status. You can know more about the state income tax refund tracking here.


“Where is my federal tax refund?” is a question enough to raise your worry or anxiety. Even if it’s inexplicably delayed, try to remain calm. Follow the steps on how to check a tax refund status online. Call the IRS help refund number. If you still cannot get help, you may need the assistance of a lawyer or tax professional. Most people, though, just need to practice patience. Take a deep breath and don’t worry.

Have you tried checking your federal tax refund? What did you do? Share your experience below!

Up Next: How Federal Tax Refund Is Calculated

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