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If you're eager to get your hands on your tax refund, you're not alone. Millions of people have those same "Where's my refund?" thoughts after they file their tax returns. If you're still wondering "Where is my tax refund?" after at least 21 days of filing online or six weeks of mailing your paper return, go to a local IRS office or call the IRS (see our list of IRS phone numbers that could get you help faster).
Here's a guide to track your refund in 2020 and 2021, plus some important things you need to know about getting a faster tax refund.
Where's my refund? Track your IRS refund status
Click on the button to go right to the IRS's refund tracker for federal tax refunds. The IRS says it updates payment statuses once per day, usually overnight. Usually, you can start checking the status of your tax return and tax refund within 24 hours of the IRS receiving your e-filed tax return or four weeks after you mail a paper return.
If you claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, note that under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS can't issue your tax refund before mid-February.
Where's my state refund? How to track your state tax refund status
Find your state below to go right to its tax refund tracker so you can find out where your state refund is.
Note: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming don't collect income tax, so they're not listed here. In New Hampshire and Tennessee, regular income is generally not subject to state tax, but a flat tax rate applies to dividends and interest income. If you have questions in these states, contact the department of revenue: NH, TN.
Where's my stimulus check? How to track the status of your stimulus check
Your stimulus check is different than your tax refund. You can track the status of your stimulus check on the IRS website here:
You should be able to see whether a payment has been processed, whether a payment date is available and whether the payment will be issued via direct deposit or mail. The IRS says it updates payment statuses once per day, usually overnight.
How to get a faster tax refund
Here are four things that can help keep your tax refund timing under control.
Avoid filing your tax return on paper. It's a myth that your IRS refund status will be "pending" for a long time and that the IRS takes forever to issue a refund. In reality, you can avoid weeks of wondering "where's my refund?" by avoiding paper. The IRS typically takes six to eight weeks to process paper returns. Instead, file electronically — those returns are processed in about three weeks. State tax authorities also accept electronic tax returns, which means you may be able to get your state tax refund faster, too.
Get direct deposit. When you file your return, tell the IRS to deposit your refund directly into your bank account instead of sending a paper check. That cuts the time in waiting for the mail and having to check your IRS refund status. You even can have the IRS split your refund across your retirement, health savings, college savings or other accounts so that you don’t fritter it away.
Start tracking right away. Another myth is that there’s no way to tell where your refund is until you get it and you'll be asking 'Where's my refund?' for a while. Reality: You can track your IRS refund status; in fact, if you file using tax software or through a tax pro, you can start tracking your IRS refund status 24 hours after the IRS receives your return. (On mailed returns, you'll have to wait four weeks.) If you're thinking 'Where's my state refund?' there's good news: You can also track the status of your state tax refund by going to your state's revenue and taxation website.
Don't let things go too long. If you haven't received your tax refund after at least 21 days of filing online or six weeks of mailing your paper return, go to a local IRS office or call the federal agency (check out our list of IRS phone numbers that could get you help faster). But that won’t fast-track your refund, according to the IRS. "Where's my refund" will undoubtedly be a concern, but the thing to worry about here is refund theft. It isn't corrected quickly, so you may be in for an even longer wait.
One more thing to know about your tax refund
It's actually something you kind of want to avoid. It may seem great to get a big check from the government, but all a tax refund tells you is that you've been overpaying your taxes all year and therefore needlessly living on less of your paycheck the whole time.
For example, if you got a $3,000 tax refund, you've been giving up $250 a month all year. Could having an extra $250 every month have helped prevent bare cupboards during the year? Forgone doctor visits? Credit-destroying overdue bills? Running up the credit card? If you want to get that money now, rather than wait for it to be refunded to you later, adjust your withholdings by giving your employer a new IRS Form W-4 (here's how).
Got more "where's my refund" questions? We have answers
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