March 7, 2021

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When will you get your tax refund? Likely dates and how to track it

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

After you file your 2020 tax returns, you start tracking the status of your tax refund as soon as after 24 hours of filing online. Plus, the sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you could get your 2020 tax refund, as well as any missing stimulus money you claim through the Recovery Rebate Credit. We offer some possible dates in the chart below.

It’s a quicker process to track and receive your tax refund if you file through direct deposit instead of a paper return. In fact, this year the IRS is asking taxpayers to avoid filing paper returns, if possible, to keep from compounding a current processing delay caused by a backlog from last year. (Remember, the 2019 tax season was extended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

We’ll walk you through how to track your 2020 refund after you file your tax return. While you’re here, keep in mind that tax season could affect your payment for a third stimulus check of up to $1,400 per person. Here’s everything we know about when your own third check could arrive and how it could be more targeted. This story is updated often.

There are two IRS tools to track the status of your refund — here’s how to use them

There are several things you’ll need on hand when you go to track the status of your tax refund. Your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — for example, single, married or 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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IRS site will mark your tax refund status one of these three ways

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

  • Received: This means the IRS now has your tax return and is working on processing it.
  • Approved: This means the IRS has approved the amount of your refund. 
  • Sent: This means the IRS has sent your refund to your bank.

How long it could take for your tax refund to arrive

The IRS says it issues most tax refunds within 21 days, but many will get theirs far sooner. It can take the IRS longer to send your tax refund if there are any errors, or if you filed a claim 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 your bank five days 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 when you could receive your refund depending on when you applied.

When to expect your tax refund

If you file on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
Feb. 14 Feb. 21 March 7
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 you call the IRS to check on your refund 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 for a while to speak to a representative. Also, the IRS says you should only call if it’s 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.



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