How To Check Your Tax Refund Status Online (and Trace Your Refund)

Are you waiting for your tax refund? Learn how to track it and trace it

US Tax Day
Credit: Diane Macdonald/Moment Open/Getty Images

Have you filed your tax return and are awaiting a refund?

The good news is that you don’t have to be left in the dark in regards to the status of your refund. The IRS has a great tool on their website that allows you to instantly check on your refund status.

Meanwhile, if you're sure you should have received your refund by now, but it hasn't arrived, the IRS also has a procedure for tracing missing refunds.

Read on to learn about both situations and the steps you should take.

"Where's My Refund?" Online Tool

This online tool has been in operation since 2007. It's easy to use and accurate to the day since the IRS updates it every 24 hours (usually overnight).

To check the status of your refund, go to Where's My Refund?. You'll need three pieces of information, so have them handy:

  • Your Social Security number or Employer Identification Number as used on the return
  • Filing status (i.e., single, head of household, married filing jointly, married filing separately)
  • The exact refund amount as filed on the return

Where's My Refund also is available as IRS2Go, an app for mobile phones, on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.

According to the IRS, you can check on the status of your refund must faster if you filed electronically: information may be available 24 hours after the IRS receives your tax return electronically.

If you filed a paper return, the IRS advises that you check four weeks after mailing the return.

The IRS issues most refunds within three weeks of receiving and processing a return, but in some cases may take longer to review a specific return.

Tracing a Refund Check That Has Gone Missing

The easiest way for you to receive your tax refund is through direct deposit (electronic transfer of funds directly into your bank account).

This also is the safest method, since you don't need to worry about a paper check getting lost in the mail, misplaced once you have it in hand, or stolen.

However, the IRS doesn't allow more than three direct deposits into the same bank account per tax year, so you may have no choice but to get a paper check. In addition, you may have other reasons for wanting a paper check.

If your paper check is missing, you can ask the IRS to trace it by calling (800) 829-1954, or by filling out Form 3911 (note that those who filed as married filing jointly need to start with the form).

The IRS will determine if the check was cashed. If it wasn't, then the agency will issue a replacement check. If it was cashed, then the agency will create a claims package that includes a copy of the endorsed, cashed check. Following a review of the information (including the signature on the back of the cashed check), the agency will decide whether or not to issue a replacement check.

Expect this process, which is run through the IRS Bureau of the Fiscal Service, to take about six weeks.