How to track your 2020 tax refund online with the IRS: Tools and dates to know


We’ll show you how to track your 2020 federal tax refund.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Did you file your 2020 tax return this weekend? Or perhaps you got a head start a week ago or more. It’s bad enough to wait for your tax refund to arrive. For people expecting the missing stimulus check money they claimed on their tax forms as a Recovery Rebate Credit, the wait may seem even longer. The good news is that you’ll be able to track you tax refund and return online after you file your taxes. Our chart below gives you an idea of when your refund could arrive.

If you file your tax return electronically, the tracking information for your payment should be available 24 hours later. And if you have yet to file, the IRS recommends that you file online, instead of by paper, since it’s still dealing with a backlog from last year’s tax due date extension as a result of COVID-19. We also recommend you set up direct deposit, too. (To help ease the filing crunch, Congress asked the IRS to extend the tax filing deadline this year, though we haven’t heard any updates recently.)

We’ll show you two IRS tools to help keep track of your 2020 refund status. Aside from refunds and missing money, this tax season could also determine if you’ll be eligible for a third stimulus check of up to the full $1,400 per person amount, or a partial payment. If so, here’s when that stimulus payment could arrive and how it could be more targeted, possibly disqualifying more people. This story was recently updated.

Track the status of your tax refund with two IRS tools

You need several things on hand 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. 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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Here’s exactly what the tax refund status means

Both the IRS tools (online and mobile) will show you one of three messages to explain your current tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if you’re owed one. 
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank through direct deposit, or as a paper check to your mailbox. (Here’s how to change your address now if you moved.)

When will my tax refund arrive? Sample schedule below

The IRS says it issues most tax refunds within 21 days, but many people will get their refunds far sooner. If there are any errors, it might take the agency longer to process and issue your tax refund. The same goes for people who filed a claim for an Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. 

For example, if the refund is going into your bank account through directly deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post it to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you may 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 for your tax refund to arrive. Here are some possible dates when you could receive your refund depending on when you filed.

When your tax refund could arrive

If you file on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
Feb 14 Feb 21 Mar 7
Mar 1 Mar 8 Mar 22
Apr 1 Apr 8 Apr 22
Apr 15 (last day to file) Apr 22 May 6
Oct 15 (last day with extension) Oct 22 Nov 5

Here’s when you should you call the IRS to check your tax 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 may wait 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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