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Tax Time Guide: ‘Where’s My Refund?’ remains easiest way to check tax refund status

IR-2019-25, February 28, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminds taxpayers that the easiest way to check on a tax refund is “Where’s My Refund?,” an online tool available at IRS.gov and through the IRS2Go app. The fastest way to get a refund is to use IRS e-file and direct deposit.

This news release is part of a series called the Tax Time Guide, a resource to help taxpayers file an accurate tax return. Additional help is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the tax reform information page.

The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. Refunds for those claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit had to be held, by law, until mid-February. Taxpayers claiming these credits should begin to see their refunds deposited in bank accounts February 27.

Using the “Where’s My Refund?” online tool, taxpayers can start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS receives an e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mailed a paper return. The tool has a tracker that displays progress through three phases: (1) Return Received; (2) Refund Approved; and (3) Refund Sent.

All that is needed to use “Where’s My Refund?” is the taxpayer’s Social Security number, tax filing status (such as single, married, head of household) and exact amount of the refund claimed on the return.

“Where’s My Refund?” is updated no more than once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check the status more often.

Taxpayers should only call the IRS tax help hotline on the status of their refund if it has been:

  • 21 days or more since the return was e-filed,
  • Six weeks or more since the return was mailed, or when
  • “Where’s My Refund?” tells the taxpayer to contact the IRS.

Taxpayers who owe should pay as much as possible to minimize interest and penalty charges

Taxpayers should visit IRS.gov/payments to explore their payment options. They can pay online, by phone (telephone numbers available at IRS.gov/payments) or using their mobile device and the IRS2Go app. Payment options available include electronic funds withdrawal (during e-file), bank account (Direct Pay), debit or credit card, and the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).

Taxpayers unsure of the amount they owe they can visit IRS.gov/account, and when logged in they can view their balance, payment history, and make a payment.

It’s especially important in 2019 for taxpayers who had an unexpected result when they filed their 2018 tax return to perform a Paycheck Checkup now to determine whether the right amount is being withheld for their 2019 taxes. Taxpayers who do need to adjust their withholding should submit a 2019 Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to their employer as soon as possible.

Payment options for those who owe but can’t pay in full

Most taxpayers will be affected by major tax law changes, and while many will get a refund, others may owe tax. Many of those owing tax may qualify for a waiver of the estimated tax penalty that often applies. See Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates and Trusts, and its instructions for details.

The IRS urges people with a filing requirement and a balance due to file by the April 15 due date even if they cannot pay in full. Taxpayers in this situation should pay what they can and then consider a payment plan for the rest.

Taxpayers who are unable to full pay what they owe should act quickly. Several payment options are available including:

  • Online Payment Agreement Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined income tax, penalties and interest and businesses that owe $25,000 or less in payroll tax and have filed all tax returns may qualify for an Online Payment Agreement. Most taxpayers qualify for this option, and an agreement can usually be set up in a matter of minutes. Online applications to set up one of these plans are available Monday – Friday, 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight. All times are Eastern time.
  • Installment Agreement Installment agreements paid by direct deposit from a bank account or payroll deduction will help taxpayers avoid default on their agreements. It also reduces the burden of mailing payments and saves postage costs. Taxpayers who don’t qualify for a payment agreement may still pay by installment. Certain fees apply.
  • Delaying Collection If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until the taxpayer's financial condition improves.
  • Offer in CompromiseSome struggling taxpayers qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the amount they owe by submitting an offer in compromise. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.

In addition, taxpayers can consider other options for payment, including getting a loan to pay the amount due. In many cases, loan costs may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties the IRS must charge under federal law.

Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov. They can use these resources to get help when it’s needed from the convenience of home or office.