Missing Your Tax Refund? Here’s How to Get Your Money
Out of everything you can do, we wouldn’t recommend calling the IRS.
Here's What You Need to Remember: To track your refund, you’ll need your Social Security Number, your filing status, and your total refund amount, excluding cents. By entering all of these into the IRS’ “Where’s My Refund” tool, you will be given the status of your refund. Otherwise, you’ll get an error message.
The final tax deadline, usually April 15, has been moved back to May 17 for 2020 returns. If you haven’t sent in your 2020 taxes yet, you have roughly a week to get it in order. If this is impossible, never fear; it’s fairly easy to request an extension with the IRS.
If you have already sent your taxes in and heard nothing back, there are a number of tools at your disposal – many helpfully included on the IRS’ website – that allow you to check on the status of any refund.
There are two main trackers that can tell you if your tax return was received by the IRS – one for paper returns, the other for e-filing. Due to persistent staffing shortages, the IRS has a historic backlog of paper returns, so there may be significant delays; be patient, and be prepared to check back multiple times. (A similar problem has occurred for some people anticipating their stimulus payments.)
How Can I Track My Payment?
To track your refund, you’ll need your Social Security Number, your filing status, and your total refund amount, excluding cents. By entering all of these into the IRS’ “Where’s My Refund” tool, you will be given the status of your refund. Otherwise, you’ll get an error message.
If all your data was entered correctly, it might also be useful to add further information – your filing date, for instance, and whether you filed on paper or online.
It Has a Message! What Does That Mean?
The three status messages are Received, Approved, and Sent. A “Received” status indicates that the IRS has your return, but is either still processing it or hasn’t determined if it is accurate or not. “Approved” means that the amount has been verified, and “Sent” tells you that a check is in the mail (or on its way to you via direct deposit).
How Long Will All of This Take?
The IRS is usually able to initiate the tax refund process within 21 days, and many people – particularly those who filed online and used direct deposit – are able to get their refunds much faster. Once again, however, the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the regular staffing shortages at the IRS, have lengthened wait times. Be patient.
It’s Been 21 Days. Why Hasn’t It Arrived Yet?
In addition to the aforementioned delays, the IRS might have encountered a problem with your return. It may have been incomplete, improperly filled out, been flagged for identity theft, or include an unusual form – in which case returns could take up to 10 weeks.
Can I Call the IRS?
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest. This article first appeared earlier this year.