How to track your 2020 tax refund online: IRS tool and dates to know

March 1, 2021 0 By boss

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We’ll show you how to track your 2020 federal tax refund.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Have you had time to file your 2020 tax return yet? You’ll not only receive your refund sooner when you file but also get your missing stimulus check money you claimed as a Recovery Rebate Credit. If it’s been 24 hours or longer since you filed your taxes, you can track your tax refund status online. Our chart below gives you some dates of when your refund could arrive.

If you haven’t filed yet, the IRS is asking you to file online (if possible), rather than send in a paper return, because it’s still dealing with a backlog from last year’s tax due date extension as a result of the pandemic. When you file, we recommend setting up direct deposit. Also, it’s still possible the IRS will extend the tax filing deadline this year, per a request from Congress, but we haven’t heard any updates yet.

We’ll tell you how to track your 2020 refund status with two IRS tools. While you’re waiting on your refunds and missing money, know that this tax season could determine if you’ll be eligible for a third stimulus check of up to $1,400 per person, or a smaller payment. Here’s when the new stimulus payment could arrive and how it could be more targeteddisqualifying more people. This story was recently updated.

Track the status of your tax refund using these two IRS tools

You need several things on hand to track the status of your tax refund: your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — for example, single, married or head of household — and your exact refund amount in whole dollars, which can be found on your tax return.

Using the IRS tool Where’s My Refund, enter your Social Security number or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Send. If you entered your information correctly, you’ll be taken to a page that shows the status of your refund. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, you’ll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with how you filed — either electronically or on paper.

There’s also a mobile app you can use to check your tax refund status called IRS2Go. The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight each day, so if you don’t see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the next day.


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Here’s exactly what your tax refund status means

Both the IRS tools (online and mobile) will show you one of three messages to explain your current tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if you’re owed one. 
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank through direct deposit, or as a paper check to your mailbox. (Here’s how to change your address now if you moved.)

When will my tax refund arrive? See the sample schedule below

The IRS says it issues most tax refunds within 21 days, but many people will get their refunds far sooner. If there are any errors, it might take the agency longer to process and issue your tax refund. The same goes for people who filed a claim for an Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. 

For example, if the refund is going into your bank account through direct deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post it to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you may be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. That’s where tracking your refund comes in handy. 

If it’s being sent by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks for your tax refund to arrive. Here are some possible dates when you could receive your refund depending on when you filed.

When your tax refund could arrive

If you file on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
Feb 14 Feb 21 Mar 7
Mar 1 Mar 8 Mar 22
Apr 1 Apr 8 Apr 22
Apr 15 (last day to file) Apr 22 May 6
Oct 15 (last day with extension) Oct 22 Nov 5

Here’s when you should call the IRS to check your tax refund status

While you can call the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time, so you may wait on hold for a while to speak to a representative. Also, the IRS says you should only call if it’s been 21 or more days since you filed your taxes online or if the Where’s My Refund tool tells you to contact the IRS.

For more information about your taxes, here’s when the 2021 deadline is to file your tax returnhow to claim missing stimulus money on your taxes and the real reason you should sign up for direct deposit on your 2020 taxes.

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