How To Track Your Tax Refund

By Sam Slabyk
January 18, 2021
Chime is a financial technology company. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC

Taxes are an inevitable part of everyday life, but many of us find the whole process confusing and frustrating. The good news is you may also be entitled to a refund in some situations! If you’ve sent your tax return to the IRS, then there are ways that you can check to see if you are entitled to a refund and when it will arrive. Here’s how to track your tax refund

  1. When Do You Need to File Your Taxes?
  2. What Happens if I File My Return Late?
  3. Does Everyone Need to File a Tax Return?
  4. How to File Your Income Tax Return
  5. How to Track Your Tax Refund

When Do You Need to File Your Taxes?

The IRS sets a deadline that you need to file your taxes. This is usually by a specific date in April each year. However, in 2020, this was delayed until July because of the COVID-19 situation. As well as the federal tax return, you will also need to file local tax returns to your state. These may have a different date to the one set by the IRS.

What Happens if I File My Return Late?

Sometimes unexpected things can happen that can delay your ability to file your return. In the first instance, it’s vital that you contact the IRS as soon as you know it will be late. They will often be understanding and may be able to offer help and advice. If you fail to file your return in time and you don’t make contact, then you might be charged interest on the amount you need to pay, plus you could face a late payment penalty. 

Does Everyone Need to File a Tax Return?

If you’re in a low-paid job, your income may be too low to be considered for tax purposes. In this case, you won’t need to file a return. The same might not apply to local taxes, so it’s important that you check to see if you still need to file local returns. 

The threshold for filing tax returns may change, so you need to speak to someone at the IRS to see what the current level is. If you want to claim a refundable tax credit or a refund for withheld income tax, then you will still need to file a tax return regardless of your income.

How to File Your Income Tax Return

Before you start to complete the return, you need to know how much money you made, plus you need to decide whether to submit a standard deduction, or if it’s better to itemize your return. If you’re itemizing, then you will also need to collect all of your receipts for charity donations, medical expenses, and any business expenses that you incurred. No matter what type of return you submit, you will need to have a W-2 form from each of your employers, plus any other earnings or interest statements. Once you have all of this information, you can proceed to choose the filing status which is based on whether you are married and on how much you pay towards the expenses of the household. 

There are many ways that you can file your taxes and the IRS has a ton of recommendations about preparing your tax return on their site to help you. You can also use commercial software that is available. This software can help you prepare your tax return and ensure that everything is completed correctly. 

Another option is to find an authorized e-file provider that is approved by the IRS. They can help you to prepare, transmit, and process the e-files and return them in the correct manner.

How to Track Your Tax Refund

Once you’ve sent the return to the IRS, you will likely be waiting to see if you are entitled to a refund. Thankfully, this process is a lot easier than filing the return itself. 

Before you start to wonder where your refund might be, you need to ensure that they have received your return. The IRS website states that you are able to check on the status of your refund after 24 hours if you submit it online or 4 weeks if you send in a paper copy. The online refund tracking service has three stages that will show depending on the status of your return. 

  1. Return Received
  2. Refund Approved
  3. Refund Sent

If you don’t want to use the tracking service, there are other ways that you can find the status of your refund. 

  • You can call the IRS and speak to someone directly. This can involve a queue, so it’s best to only call them if you absolutely need to. 
  • You can check to see if you have received an email confirmation from the IRS or the person who submitted the e-file. You might also get a notification from the commercial tax return software you used if it’s compatible with the IRS system. 

In some situations, such as the situation with COVID-19, there may be a delay in the processing and refunds. 

If you receive your refund and it’s less than you expected, it may be that you owe money to the IRS or state agency. The federal government can sometimes use part or all of your federal tax refund to pay this debt. This is called a tax refund offset and should be noted on your tax refund details. 

Although submitting your tax returns can be a difficult and tedious process, there are tools out there that can help you to get it right. Provided you are able to return your forms on time and that they are correct, you should have no issues receiving your tax refund. 


This page is for informational purposes only. Chime does not provide financial, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for financial, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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Sam Slabyk is a Digital Content Specialist. Sam loves to write about banking, budgeting, and tips on how to save money.

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