Where's Your Tax Refund? How to Check With the IRS and Your State

The 2019 tax-filing season is expected to be delayed

Illustration of a tax refund process. The Balance

It's really very easy to check on the status of a tax refund you're expecting from the Internal Revenue Service or from a state tax department—the information is just a click on your mouse or a tap on your phone away. But this assumes that you've filed your tax return and that the IRS has accepted it. You can't file until the official opening of the tax-filing season. That's Jan. 27, 2020 for federal 2019 tax year returns.

Check the Status of a Federal Refund

You can check your refund's status at the IRS Where's My Refund? website after you've filed your return, or from your smartphone at IRS2Go. The app is available for Android and iOS devices. The IRS updates its computer systems once a day, usually at night, and both the app and the website are available 24/7.

You can also call the IRS Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954 if you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way. It's a toll-free number.

Information relating to your federal refund can be available as soon as 24 hours after the IRS receives an electronically-filed tax return or about four weeks after receiving a paper-filed tax return.

Typical Processing Times for Federal Refunds

The IRS typically issues tax refunds within 21 days of receiving a tax return if the return is filed electronically.

It issues refunds in approximately six to eight weeks for paper returns that are mailed to the IRS for manual processing.

Amended returns can take up to 16 weeks to process.

Non-resident aliens may have to wait up to six months to receive their refund if they claimed a refund of taxes withheld on Form 1042-S.

The Effect of the PATH Act

Taxpayers who claim the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit might experience an additional delay, depending on when they file. They might have to wait until the first week of March or so to receive their refunds if they file as soon as the filing season opens.

These are refundable credits, susceptible to identity theft, and a lot of taxpayers make errors when claiming them. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act therefore prohibits the IRS from releasing these refunds until at least mid-February. This gives the agency ample time to ensure that the taxpayers claiming these refunds do indeed qualify for them.

When the IRS Gets Backlogged

Refunds often take longer to process when the IRS is receiving a higher than normal volume of tax returns. Tax returns filed on paper, including amended returns and tax returns that are required to be filed on paper, can take longer for the IRS to process when the agency gets backlogged.

The IRS might need to verify information on your return. This verification process can be delayed when the IRS gets backlogged, such as during the busiest times of the filing season.

Incorrect Bank Information

It's possible that the IRS sent your refund to the wrong account if you've filed your tax return and the Where's My Refund? app indicates that the IRS has sent your refund but it still hasn't shown up in your bank account.

This happens when you've requested direct deposit of your refund, and the bank account number and the routing transit number you entered on your tax return are different than your actual bank numbers. Perhaps you or your tax preparer made a mistake or transposed numbers when entering the data. The IRS will send the tax refund to the bank account shown on your tax return.

One of two things can happen if the numbers shown on your tax return don't correspond exactly with your bank account information:

  • The bank might refuse the deposit and send the refund back to the IRS, and the IRS will then mail the refund to you via paper check.
  • The bank will accept the deposit and the refund is deposited to the mistaken account shown on your tax return.

That mistaken account number might be an actual account that belongs to someone else, or maybe an account with that number doesn't exist. In the latter case, the money will just sit there until the bank figures out what to do with it.

How to Get Your Refund Back

Check your tax return. If your direct deposit information does not match up with your actual bank information, call the IRS as soon as possible at 800-829-1040 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can request that your direct deposit be canceled and that your refund be converted to a paper check and mailed to you.

Contact the bank to see if it can reverse an incorrect direct deposit. Give the bank two weeks to do so. You can file IRS Form 3911 to ask that the agency contact the bank on your behalf if you don't get an acceptable response after this time. The bank has 90 days to initiate a trace after being notified of the error by the IRS.

The IRS has been historically prevented by law from taking direct action to get these deposits back from banks. That changed with the Taxpayer First Act of 2019.

Check the Status of Your State Tax Refund

The following states offer online refund status tools:

  • Alabama: Click the "Where's My Refund?" link under the section titled "eServices."
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California: Click on "Check Refund." You'll need your Social Security number, zip code, the exact amount of your refund, and you'll be asked for the numbers in your address.
  • Colorado: Click on the "Revenue Online" link.
  • Connecticut: Click on "Check on the Status of Your Refund" found in the blue sidebar.
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia: Click on "Check your refund status here."
  • Georgia: Click on "Where's My Refund?"
  • Hawaii:
  • Idaho: Click on the "Where's my refund?" button.
  • Illinois 
  • Indiana
  • Iowa: You'll need your Social Security number, your exact refund amount, and the tax year you're looking for.
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky: The interactive tool to initiate a search can be found at the bottom of the page.
  • Louisiana: Click on the "Check Your Income Tax Refund Status" link.
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts: The "Check the Status of Your Refund" link can be found at the bottom of the page.
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota: You must be due a refund and have filed the return within the last 12 months for tax years 2016 or later. You'll be asked to provide your date of birth.
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri: This state's site allows you to check on the status of your return, with a refund issue date "if applicable."
  • Montana: Click on "Where's My Refund?"
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire: This state only taxes interest and dividend income and does not have an online site to check refunds as of February 2020. You can call 603-230-5000 if you have questions about your return or think you've overpaid.
  • New Jersey: This site is limited to 2018 and 2019 tax year returns, and you should wait four weeks after efiling or 12 weeks after filing a paper return.
  • New Mexico: Click on "Where's My Refund?" at the right side of the page.
  • New York: Click on "Check Refund Status."
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota: You'll have to provide your filing status, your Social Security number, and the exact amount of your expected refund.
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon: Click on "Where's my Refund?" near the top of the second column.
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island: You'll need your Social Security number, your filing status, and your exact refund amount.
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee: This state taxes only interest and dividends, not earned income. You must claim a refund on its website. One won't automatically be sent to you.
  • Utah: Click on "Where's My Refund?" toward the bottom of the column of options on the left side of the page.
  • Vermont: Click on "Check My Refund Status."
  • Virginia: You must wait 72 hours after filing your return electronically, or four weeks after you've mailed in a paper return. You can also call the Automated Refund System at 804-367-2486.
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Seven states don't appear on this list because they don't have an income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

Article Sources

  1. IRS. "IRS Opens 2020 Filing Season for Individual Filers on Jan. 27." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.

  2. IRS. "IRS Refund Information Guidelines for the Tax Preparation Community." Page 1. Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.

  3. IRS. "IRS Tax Tip 2001-48 Refunds—How Long Should They Take?" Page 1. Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.

  4. IRS. "Amended Returns & Form 1040X." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.

  5. IRS. "What to Expect for Refunds This Year." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.

  6. IRS. "Refund Timing for Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit Filers." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.

  7. IRS. "Refund Inquiries 18." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.