Topic 152 - Refund Information

There are three options for receiving your federal individual income tax refund:

  • The fastest way is by direct deposit (electronic funds transfer) into your checking or savings account, including an individual retirement arrangement (IRA);
  • By purchase of U.S. Series I Savings Bonds; or
  • By paper check sent to the address listed on your return.

If you choose to receive your refund by direct deposit, there is an option to split your refund into as many as three separate accounts. For example, you can request that we directly deposit into a checking, a savings and a retirement account by completing Form 8888 (PDF), Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases) and attaching it to your income tax return. This option is not available if you file Form 8379 (PDF), Injured Spouse Allocation. As a reminder, your refund should only be directly deposited into accounts that are in your own name, your spouse’s name or both if it’s a joint account. Please note, to receive your refund by direct deposit (whether into one account or more), the total refund amount must be $1.00 or more.

In an effort to combat fraud and identity theft, the IRS limits the number of direct deposits into a single financial account or prepaid debit card to three refunds per year. Taxpayers who exceed this limit will receive refund checks.

Refunds for electronically filed returns process within 21 days of the e-file acceptance date. Refunds from mailed paper returns process within six to eight weeks from the date the IRS receives it. Even though the IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, incomplete or inaccurate tax returns may require further review and could take longer than the normal processing time.

IRS representatives can research the status of your return only if it has been:

  • More than 21 days since you received your e-file acceptance notification,
  • More than 6 weeks since you mailed your paper return, or
  • If Where’s My Refund? directs you to contact us.

Where’s My Refund? has the most up to date information available about your refund. Use it to get your personalized refund status. The tool is updated once a day so you don't need to check more often. You can also download our free mobile app, IRS2Go, from an iPhone or Android device. Both are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can start checking on the status of your return within 24 hours after we have received your e-filed return or 4 weeks after you mail a paper return.

Have your 2014 tax return handy so you can provide your Social Security number, your filing status and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund shown on your return.

If you don't have Internet access, you may call the refund hotline at 800-829-1954. Where’s My Refund? includes information for the most recent tax year filed in the current year and does not include information about amended returns. To check the status of an amended return, use Where’s My Amended Return? on

The Where’s My Refund? tool includes a tracker that displays progress through 3 stages: (1) Return Received, (2) Refund Approved and (3) Refund Sent. Where’s My Refund? will provide an actual personalized refund date as soon as the IRS processes your tax return and approves your refund.

Where’s My Refund? provides the most accurate and complete information we have. Unless Where’s My Refund? tells you to call, there’s no need. Updates to refund status are made no more than once a day - usually at night.

Processing times may take longer under the following circumstances:

  • Refunds from amended returns, generally issued within 16 weeks.
  • Injured spouse claims. Refer to Topic 203 for more information about injured spouse claims.
  • Refund claims with an application for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) attached. Refer to Topic 857 for more information about ITINs.

You can also refer to Topic 303 for a checklist of common errors when preparing your tax return and for additional items that may delay the processing of your return.

If you receive a refund to which you are not entitled, or for an amount that is more than you expected, do not cash the check until you receive a notice that explains the difference; then follow the instructions on the notice.

However, if you receive a refund for a smaller amount than you expected, you may cash the check. If it is determined that you should have received more, you will later receive a check for the difference. You will also get a notice explaining the difference. Follow the instructions on the notice.

In the event that your refund check is lost, stolen or destroyed, the IRS will help you in obtaining a replacement check.

For more information about refunds, see Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: June 09, 2015