Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my refund different than the amount on the tax return I filed? (updated May 16, 2023)

All or part of your refund may be offset to pay off past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support, or other federal nontax debts, such as student loans. To find out if you may have an offset or if you have questions about an offset, contact the agency to which you owe the debt.

We also may have changed your refund amount because we made changes to your tax return. This may include corrections to any incorrect Recovery Rebate Credit or Child Tax Credit amounts. You'll get a notice explaining the changes. Where's My Refund? will reflect a refund offset and different refund amount when it relates to a change in your tax return.

Tax Topic 203, Refund Offsets for Unpaid Child Support, Certain Federal and State Debts, and Unemployment Compensation Debts has more information about refund offsets.

How quickly will I get my refund? (updated May 16, 2023)

We issue most refunds in less than 21 calendar days. However, if you filed a paper return and expect a refund, it could take four weeks or more to process your return. Where's My Refund? has the most up to date information available about your refund.

I'm counting on my refund for something important. Can I expect to receive it in 21 days?

Many different factors can affect the timing of your refund after we receive your return. Even though we issue most refunds in less than 21 days, it's possible your refund may take longer. Also, remember to consider the time it takes for your financial institution to post the refund to your account or for you to receive it by mail.

It's been longer than 21 days since the IRS received my return and I haven't gotten my refund. Why? (updated July 26, 2023) 

Some tax returns take longer to process than others for many reasons, including when a return:

  • Is sent by mail
  • Contains errors or is incomplete
  • Needs further review in general
  • Is affected by identity theft or fraud
  • Was referred to the IRS by the bank due to suspicious activity
  • Includes a claim filed for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit. See Q&A below.
  • Includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse AllocationPDF, which could take up to 14 weeks to process

For the latest information on IRS refund processing during the COVID-19 pandemic, see the IRS Operations Status page.

If we need more information to process your return, we'll contact you by mail. If we're still processing your return, correcting an error, or researching suspicious activity referred by banks, Where's My Refund? and our phone representatives may not be able to provide you with your specific refund date. Please check Where's My Refund? for updated information on your refund.

I claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on my tax return. When can I expect my refund?

According to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS cannot issue EITC and ACTC refunds before mid-February. The IRS expects most EITC/Additional CTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by February 28, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return. However, some taxpayers may see their refunds a few days earlier. Check Where's My Refund for your personalized refund date.

Where's My Refund? on and the IRS2Go mobile app remains the best way to check the status of a refund. WMR on and the IRS2Go app will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC/ACTC refund filers by February 18.

When should I call you about the status of my refund?

Call us about your refund status only if Where's My Refund? directs you to contact us.

What information does Where's My Refund? have?

Your refund status from the tax year you select.

Does the refund hotline have all of the same information as the Where's My Refund? website or on the IRS2Go mobile app?

Our automated refund hotline, 800-829-1954, will not be able to give you your refund status for any year other than the 2022 tax year.

Why can't I get through the verification system on the refund hotline for a prior year refund? (added May 16, 2023)

If you're calling about a prior year refund, we're not able to assist you on that line, even if our online Where's My Refund? tool advised you to call that number. Please visit Where's My Refund? for all updates to your tax year 2021 or 2020 refund, as this is the only automated source to receive updated information for prior years. We apologize for any inconvenience.

When can I start checking Where's My Refund? for my refund's status? (updated May 16, 2023)

  • 24 hours after e-filing a tax year 2022 return
  • 3 or 4 days after e-filing a tax year 2020 or 2021 return
  • 4 weeks after filing a paper return

Will Where's My Refund? show me when I'll receive my refund?

Where's My Refund? will give you a personalized date after we process your return and approve your refund.

I’m a nonresident alien. I don’t have to pay U.S. federal income tax. How do I claim a refund for federal taxes withheld on income from a U.S. source? When can I expect to receive my refund? (updated May 16, 2023)

To claim a refund of federal taxes withheld on income from a U.S. source, a nonresident alien must report the appropriate income and withholding amounts on Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax ReturnPDF. You must include the documents substantiating any income and withholding amounts when you file your Form 1040NR. Please allow up to 6 months from the date you filed the 1040-NR for your refund.

How will I know you're processing my tax return?

Where's My Refund? follows your tax return from receipt to completion. It will tell you when your return is in received status and if your refund is in approved or sent status.

What is happening when Where's My Refund? shows my tax return status as received?

We have your tax return and are processing it.

What is happening when Where's My Refund? shows my refund's status as approved? (updated May 16, 2023)

We've approved your refund. We are preparing to send your refund to your bank or directly to you in the mail. This status will tell you when we'll send the refund to your bank (if you selected the direct deposit option). Please wait 5 days after we've sent the refund to check with your bank about your refund, since banks vary in how and when they credit funds. (It could take four weeks before you receive a mailed refund check.)

How long will it take for my status to change from return received to refund approved? (updated May 16, 2023)

Processing times vary depending on the information submitted on your tax return, but most returns change from return received to refund approved after only a few days.

Does Where's My Refund? always display my refund status showing the different stages of return received, refund approved and refund sent?

No, not always. If we're still reviewing your return, it may display instructions or an explanation of what we're doing. The refund tracker may not appear until we've completed our review of your tax return.

Does Where's My Refund? update often?

Once per day, usually at night. There's no need to check more often.

Will Where's My Refund? give me my amended return's status?

No. You can obtain information about your amended tax return by visiting our Where's My Amended Return? application.

I requested a direct deposit refund. Why are you mailing it to me as a paper check? (updated May 16, 2023)

There are several reasons:

  • We can only deposit refunds electronically into accounts in your own name, your spouse's name or in a joint account.
  • A financial institution may reject a direct deposit.
  • We can't deposit more than three electronic refunds into a single financial account.

What should I do when the refund I receive is not from my tax account?

Please don't cash the refund check or spend the direct deposit refund. Send the refund back to us. Tax Topic 161, Returning an Erroneous Refund – Paper Check or Direct Deposit has more information on what to do.