How to Track an Income Tax Return

Taxpayers can electronically track their income tax returns and refunds.

Taxpayers can electronically track their income tax returns and refunds.

The Internal Revenue Service is now able to process tax returns and issue refunds much faster than in the past. The IRS has also developed a couple of simple online tools with which taxpayers may track their returns to ensure the forms have been been accepted and processed. The IRS also estimates the date it will electronically deposit refunds in bank accounts or mail them to recipients. You must wait 72 hours after filing electronically or four weeks after filing a paper return to receive information about a tax return from the tracking system.

How to Track an Income Tax Return

Visit the IRS home page and enter the phrase, " Where's my refund" in the search box in the upper-right-hand corner. You will receive list of results. Click either the "refund status" or the "Where's My Refund" option. The IRS also has a smartphone application, IRS2Go, that allows tax payers to check the status of their returns from their mobile phones.

Click the "refund status" link under Step 3. Enter your Social Security number in the box provided in the first section of the form. Select your filing status from among the five options provided in the second section. Enter the amount of your refund from your tax return. All three pieces of information must exactly match the information submitted on your tax return.

Submit your request. If your tax return was filled out correctly, you will instantly receive an estimated date when you can expect your refund either as an electronic deposit or a check in the mail. The IRS stresses these are estimated dates, delays do occur and refund dates can change. Delays can be caused by different factors, such as math errors in calculating refunds, audits, bankruptcies or balances due to the government from past tax returns. If a refund is delayed, the tracking system will update information as it becomes available. If the IRS needs more information to process your return, you will receive a letter with specific requests and instructions.


  • In some cases, the "Where's My Refund" tracking system will advise a taxpayer to contact the IRS about a return. Unless you receive this message, the IRS advises you to wait and try to work with the tracking system. If you do have to contact the IRS, call as early in the day as possible to avoid a long wait to speak with an agent.

About the Author

Laura Scott has been reporting for Gatehouse Media New England, Essex County Newspapers and other regional publishers since 1997. She won several New England Press Association awards for her coverage of the fishing industry and coastal communities. Scott is a graduate of Vassar College and has a master's degree in American studies from Boston College. She also attended art school in Italy.

Photo Credits

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