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How to Track Your 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 on the way to your mailbox.

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Clifford Colby Managing 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.
Expertise Tech from browser security to password managers and government programs from mail-in voting to federal assistance
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Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Clifford Colby
Katie Teague
3 min read
The USPS sign at a post office

The US Postal Service can scan your incoming mail to alert you to the arrival of your refund check.

James Martin/CNET

According to the IRS, the best -- and fastest -- way to receive your 2023 tax return is online with direct deposit. Using that method, you should get your tax refund in less than three weeks, the agency said. A paper check could take three to eight weeks to arrive, depending on where you filed a paper or electronic tax return, but the good news is that you can get notifications from the US Postal Service to know exactly when your money will arrive.

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The US Postal Service has a tracking tool that lets you know when you can expect your tax refund 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 CNET's picks for the best tax software for 2024 and whether you need to file a tax return if you receive Social Security benefits.

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 address 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 (excluding federal holidays), 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 your 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. 

To check whether Informed Delivery is available in your area, head to the US Postal Service's Informed Delivery page.

1. Tap Sign Up for Free.

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.

For more tax tips, learn when Tax Day this year and what to do if you don't receive your W-2 form by the end of January.