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Where is my tax refund? The IRS Refund Timeline Explained

Where is my tax refund?

Have you ever wondered what happens between the time you e-file your tax return and the time you receive your refund?


This is what happens when you hit that green button and submit your tax return.

  • First, we “seal” the return with an electronic postage stamp and then send it to the government.
  • So we both wait 24 to 48 hours for the IRS to accept your return.
  • What are they doing? They are reviewing your personal information to make sure it matches their records.
  • If everything looks good, the IRS accepts your tax return.

Once they accept it, you’re on the IRS payment schedule. In previous years, the IRS issued more than 9 out of 10 taxpayer refunds in less than 21 days. The same results are expected for 2021.

Once you’ve filed your tax return electronically, there are a few ways to check the status of your refund:

  • You can use the IRS tool Where’s My Refund?
  • You can call the IRS at 800-829-8954

The IRS tool will provide you with personalized refund information based on the processing of your tax return. They will provide a refund date as soon as the IRS processes your tax return and approves your refund. Most refunds will be issued in less than 21 days. You can start checking the status of your refund within 24 hours of e-filing your return.

Remember, the fastest way to get your tax refund is to file electronically, also known as e-file, and choose direct deposit.

Other tools and delay of your refund

You can also use the following tool on the TurboTax Where’s My Refund page? which will walk you through checking the status of your refund and explain some common reasons why it may be delayed.

Do your taxes your way with TurboTax. Do them yourself, with the help of an expert, or have an expert do them for you from start to finish. Your taxes will be well done.

Will I see a date right away when I check the status in “Where’s My Refund?” 

The IRS “Where’s My Refund?” tool will not indicate a date until the IRS receives and processes the tax return and approves the refund.

It’s been more than 21 days since the IRS received my tax return and I still haven’t received my refund. What happens?

Some tax returns take longer to process than others depending on the taxpayer’s tax status. Some of the reasons it may take longer are because the information is incomplete, an error was found, or the IRS may need to review it more closely.

I asked for the money to be automatically deposited into my bank account, but they sent me a check in the mail. What happened?

The IRS limits the number of direct deposits to a single bank account or prepaid debit card to three tax refunds per year. The limit may have been reached. Also, for a small number of returns, the IRS may identify indications that the bank account on the return is suspicious and may decide to write a check instead.

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