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Published: Feb 22, 2024 8 min read
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Pete Ryan for Money

Tax season is in full swing. We’re a few weeks out of the gate, and already tens of millions of Americans have filed their 2023 taxes. Many now anxiously await their refunds from the IRS.

Thanks in part to a large cash infusion from the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRS says it's on strong footing this tax season. To that end, the agency is processing returns at a much faster pace than recent years. Of the nearly 26 million returns it has received so far, it says it has processed virtually all of them — or 99.5%, to be exact.

Another major difference is that refunds are smaller so far in 2024. The average tax refund is currently $1,741, about 13% less than last year.

Even as inflation begins to moderate, everyday prices are nonetheless much higher than they were before the pandemic, and many Americans rely heavily on their tax refunds to make ends meet. All of this makes questions like "where's my refund?" even more urgent.

Luckily, there are three ways to find out.

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How to track your tax refund

Once you e-file your return or drop it in the mail, you can check in with the IRS for tax refund updates. Here’s how.

1. Check your tax refund status on the IRS website

On the IRS’s website, you can use its refund-tracking tool to check your refund status on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

To see your update, you’ll need to select the “Check Your Refund” button and then follow the prompts, inputting your Social Security number, tax filing status and exact refund amount. If you entered the information correctly, you should see your refund status instantly.

This filing season, the IRS says it is including more detailed updates about your refund on the Where's My Refund? page, including three main statuses:

  • Return received: The IRS received your tax return and is processing it.
  • Refund approved: The IRS approved your refund and will issue it by the date displayed.
  • Refund sent: The IRS sent your tax refund via direct deposit or mail, depending on your preferred method. Direct deposits may take up to five days to hit your bank account, while mailed checks will likely take several weeks.

Note that it will only display your refund status if it’s been at least 24 hours since you e-filed your 2023 tax return or four weeks since you’ve mailed your paper return. Your tax refund status for a previous year's return will show up three or four days after filing.

Additionally, if you've set up an IRS account, you can access more information by requesting your tax and account transcripts. Some folks swear this is a hack to find out when you'll get your tax refund — and, to be fair, your account transcript does include a log of any recent IRS action — but the IRS says the Where's My Refund? tool is your best bet as it's updated daily, typically overnight.

2. Use the IRS2Go app for refund updates

If it’s more convenient than using the website, you can also check your tax refund status using the IRS2Go app, which is available on the Amazon Appstore, the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

The IRS app has several uses beyond checking your refund status, but if that’s all you need to do, select the refund tab and input your personal information. Just like the IRS website, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, filing status and refund amount. Then click submit, and you’ll see your refund status.

Again, you’ll want to make sure it has been at least 24 hours since you e-filed your return or four weeks since you mailed it off.

Speaking of those extra features, you can also use the IRS2Go app to pay your tax bill, review tax tips and get directions for on-site tax assistance nearby.

3. Call the IRS directly

For general status updates on your tax refund, it's probably not a great idea to call the IRS — unless several weeks have passed since you filed.

The IRS recommends that you not call directly unless it has been more than 21 days since you e-filed your return or longer than six weeks since you mailed in your paper return.

However, in some cases, the IRS may need additional information and will directly request that you contact them. The Where’s My Refund? tool may also prompt you to call.

If you do need to contact the IRS, you can call 800-829-1040 about individual tax returns, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

When calling the agency, here are the info or documents you should have on hand:

  • Social Security number
  • Birth date
  • Filing status
  • Prior year’s tax return
  • The tax return in question
  • Any correspondence the IRS has sent you
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How long your tax refund will (probably) take

Generally speaking, the sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you will get your tax refund. Choosing direct deposit as your refund delivery method can also speed up the process because you don’t have to wait on a physical check to arrive in the mail.

The turnaround is normally pretty fast: The IRS issues the vast majority of refunds within 21 days for e-filers. If you filed a paper tax return, the agency says it may take four or more weeks to get your refund. As of Feb. 9, the IRS had distributed approximately 7.5 million refunds, adding up to about $13 billion in tax refunds.

Keep in mind that the IRS is legally prohibited from issuing refunds before mid-February to people who claim the earned income tax Credit or the additional child tax credit. If you claimed one of those credits and filed at the start of tax season, it may take a little longer than the time frame above to receive your refund.

Remember: Taxes are due April 15 for most people this year. Since refunds are expected to be lower than the previous pandemic years, you should file sooner than later to find out what your refund will be — or to know if you owe — so that you have plenty of time to plan accordingly.

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