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Tax season 2021: when to expect a refund and how to track it

Now that tax season has arrived, it's time to start tracking where your refund will be after filing your tax return. CNET explains how to do this.

Photo: Shutterstock

You can track your tax refund status as soon as 24 hours after you file your 2020 tax return. In addition, the sooner you file your tax return, the sooner you can get your 2020 refund, as well as any missing coronavirus payments you claim through Recovery Rebate Credit.

The process of tracking and receiving your return will be faster if you file your return electronically instead of on paper. In fact, this year the IRS is asking taxpayers to avoid filing paper returns as much as possible so as not to exacerbate the current processing delay caused by last year's backlog. (As a reminder, the 2019 tax season was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

IRS tools to track refund status

When you're looking to track your tax refund status, you will need: your Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number, your registration status - such as single, married, or head of household - and the exact dollar amount of the refund, which can be found on your tax return.

Using an IRS tool Where's my refund, enter your Social Security Number or ITIN, registration status and exact reimbursement amount, then click Send. If you entered the information correctly, you will be taken to a page showing the status of your refund. Otherwise, you may be asked to verify your personal tax details and try again. If all of the information appears to be correct, you will need to indicate the filing date of your tax return and whether you filed it electronically or on paper.

On the subject: Tax season 2021: what in your tax return might alert the IRS

There is also a mobile application IRS2Gowhich can be used to check the status of a tax refund, which is useful if you are constantly checking when a refund is due. The IRS updates the data in this tool every day at night, so if you don't see a status change after 24 hours or more, try again the next day.

The IRS website will flag your tax refund status in one of three ways:

  • Received (“Received”): This means the IRS has your tax return and is processing it.
  • Approved (“Approved”): The IRS has approved your reimbursement amount.
  • sent (“Sent”): means the IRS has sent your refund to your bank.

The IRS says it refunds most taxes within 21 days, but many will receive refunds much earlier. It may take longer if there are errors in your paperwork, or if you are applying for an Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit. But it also depends on the form in which you filed the return.

For example, if the refund goes directly to your bank account, it may take another 5 days for your bank to credit it to your account. This means that if it took the IRS 21 days to write your check and the bank 5 days to send it, you could wait a total of 26 days to receive your money. This is where return tracking comes in handy.

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How long to wait for a return

If the money is sent by post, it may take 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. Here are a few possible dates when you can get your refund, depending on when you applied:

  • Submission before February 14 - returns between February 21 and March 7.
  • Submission before March 1 - return from March 8 to March 22.
  • Submission before April 1 - return from April 8 to April 22.
  • Submission before April 15 (last day) - return from April 22 to May 6.
  • Submission before October 15 (extended period) - return from October 22 to November 5.

While you can call the IRS to check your status, real-time phone assistance from the agency is extremely limited at this time. Besides, the IRS saythat you should only call if 21 days or more have passed since you filed your tax return online, or if the Where's My Refund tool prompts you to contact the IRS.

Read also on ForumDaily:

Four documents without which you cannot file a tax return

How to find and retrieve your unclaimed money in the USA

IRS Starts Accepting Tax Returns for 2020: Timing, Deductions and Details to Know

New Rule Could Provide Greater Tax Refunds: What You Need to Know

Miscellaneous tax refund Educational program tax season Special Projects tax season 2021
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