How to Track a Paper Tax Refund Check That's Coming in the Mail
Porch pirates and careless delivery can make waiting for an IRS check stressful. Learn how to track its status to your mailbox.
Clifford ColbyManaging Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
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ExpertisePersonal Finance: Social Security and taxes
The IRS says that the best way to file your 2022 tax return is online with direct deposit. Using that method, you'll get your tax refund in about three weeks. If you prefer a paper check from the IRS, it will take about four to six weeks, but the good news is that you can get notifications from the US Postal Service to know exactly when it will arrive.
The US Postal Service has a tracking tool that lets you know when your tax refund is expected to land in your mailbox. It's called Informed Delivery, and the free service sends you alerts for all new mail -- and transmits images of the front of letters so you know exactly what's arriving.
Informed Delivery doesn't take pictures of your incoming packages, but it does track them and will also let you add an electronic signature to receive packages when you're not home.
The process for setting up and using USPS Informed Delivery is pretty simple -- we'll explain how to do it. For more about tax season and the post office, learn about the biggest tax changes this year and CNET's picks for the best tax software for 2023.
USPS Informed Delivery: Track your check directly to your mailbox
Informed Delivery is a free mail-tracking service from the post office that automatically scans your incoming letters and can send you an image each time something with your name on it is about to be delivered.
When the US Postal Service runs mail through its automated sorting equipment, it creates a digital image of the front of all letter-size mail. Anyone who signs up for Informed Delivery can benefit from that information by asking the post office to notify you when each piece of mail bearing your name is on the way. Note that it can take three days to activate your account.
As part of the program, you'll receive an email every morning, Monday through Saturday, to notify you about mail being delivered to you. You'll also see a grayscale image of the letter's front. Informed Delivery has free apps for Android and iOS, too.
Just be aware that signing up means you'll see all mail that's scanned by the post office. You can cancel the service at any time. Read on for details on how to sign up for Informed Delivery.
You can also track your packages from the post office
With Informed Delivery, you can check the delivery status of your packages and when they're scheduled to arrive. The post office doesn't capture an image of your packages, however. You can use the service to create an electronic signature so you can receive packages when you're not at home.
USPS Informed Delivery: How to get notifications
Informed Delivery has some limitations. For example, it will work with many residential and personal post office box addresses -- but not businesses. It also won't work for some residential buildings where the post office hasn't yet identified each unit.
2. Enter your mailing address and confirm that it'll work with the service; then accept the terms and conditions and tap Continue.
3. On the next page, choose a username, password and security questions. Enter your contact information and tap Continue.
4. On the next page, you'll need to verify your identity. Tap Verify identity online if you want to receive a verification code on your phone or tap Request invitation code by mail if you want the post office to mail you a code. You may also have the option to visit a post office to verify your identity in person.