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Where's My Tax Refund? When to Expect Your Money and How Much Extra the IRS Owes You

If you filed your tax return on time and still haven't gotten your refund, at least it's earning interest.

letters spelling out tax refund on a desk with items suggesting bookkeeping
The IRS is required by law to pay interest on "overpayments" like your tax refund.
Hafiz Ismail/EyeEm

This story is part of Taxes 2022, CNET's coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.

If you filed your tax return electronically and were due a refund, you probably already received it. The IRS reported that it's processed 97% of the more than 145 million returns it received this year and issued a few more than 96 million refunds.

If you filed a paper return, however, you could still be waiting. In June, the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent watchdog within the IRS, reported the agency was facing an "unprecedented backlog of unprocessed paper tax returns and returns with suspected errors or suspected identity theft."

As a result, delays in completing paper returns have been running from six months up to one year.  

The good news is the IRS has to pay interest on any money it owes you. Your tax refund comes from your 2021 return and the IRS is required to start paying interest on overpayment 45 days after accepting a tax return. 

Read more: 8 Reasons Your Tax Refund Might Be Delayed

To determine the status of your return, you can use the IRS tax refund tracker, which will also let you know if your return has been rejected by the IRS because of errors.

Read on to learn how IRS overpayment interest works, how to use the agency's tools to track your refund and how to access your online IRS account to get more information.  

Why haven't I gotten my refund yet?

There are numerous reasons why your tax return may not have been completely processed yet, resulting in a delayed refund. Here are the most common.  

  • Your return had errors or was incomplete
  • You owe the IRS money
  • Your bank account info was incorrect
  • You filed a paper return
  • You didn't properly enter your stimulus payments
  • The IRS suspects identity theft
  • You filed an amended return
  • Your return needs further review 

In testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee, IRS Commissioner Charles P. Retting said that, in 2021, the agency received "far more than 10 million returns" in which taxpayers failed to properly reconcile their stimulus payments with their recovery rebate credit, which required a manual review and resolution.

If the delay is due to a necessary tax correction made to a recovery rebate credit, earned income tax or additional child tax credit claimed on your return, the IRS will send you an explanation.

If there's a problem that needs to be fixed, the IRS will first try to proceed without contacting you. However, if it needs any more information, it will write you a letter. 

If you've requested a paper check for your tax refund, that'll take longer, too -- about six to eight weeks, according to the IRS. 

How much interest does the IRS owe me?

If you filed a proper return on time and the IRS does not issue your refund within 45 days after accepting it, the agency is required to start paying interest on your refund amount. 

As of July 1, the interest rate rose from 4% to 5% as a result of the Federal Reserve's recent decision to raise the federal funds rate

If you electronically filed on time, the 45-day period started on April 18. If you filed a paper return, it began the day that the IRS marked your return as "accepted."

Of course, any IRS interest you receive with your refund is considered taxable income.

How can I track my refund using the Where's My Refund tool

To use the IRS tracker tools, you'll need to provide your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number; your filing status (single, married or head of household); and your refund amount in whole dollars, which you can find on your tax return.

Make sure it's been at least 24 hours before you start tracking your refund, or up to four weeks if you mailed your return. 

Go to the Get Refund Status page on the IRS website and enter your personal data, then press Submit. You should be taken to a page that shows your refund status. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, you'll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with whether you filed electronically or on paper.

What if I'm looking for return info from a previous year?

The Where's My Refund tool lists the federal refund information the IRS has from the past two years. If you're looking for return details from previous years, you'll need to check your IRS online account

From there, you'll be able to see the total amount you owe, your payment history, key information about your most recent tax return, notices you've received from the IRS and your address on file. 

How to use the IRS2Go app to track your return

IRS2Go logo

The IRS2Go app is available for both iOS and Android.

Internal Revenue Service

The IRS also has a mobile app, IRS2Go, which checks your tax refund status. It's available for both iOS and Android and in English and Spanish.

Using it, you'll be able to see if your return was been received and approved and if a refund was sent. 

To log in, you'll need your Social Security number, filing status and the expected amount of your refund. The IRS updates the app overnight, so if you don't see a status change, check back the following day. 

What do these IRS tax return statuses mean?

Both IRS tools (online and mobile app) will show you one of three messages to explain your tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if you're owed one.
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank via direct deposit or as a paper check sent to your mailbox. (Here's how to change the address on file if you've moved.)

Why do I see a "Tax Topic 151," "Tax Topic 152" or IRS error message?

Although the Where's My Refund tool typically shows a status of Received, Approved or Sent, there are a variety of other messages some users may see.

One of the most common is Tax Topic 152, indicating you're likely getting a refund but it hasn't been approved or sent yet. The notice simply links out to an informational topic page on the IRS FAQ website explaining the types and timing of tax refunds.

The delay could be an automated message for taxpayers claiming the child tax credit or earned income tax credit sent because of additional fraud protection steps.

Tax Topic 151 means your tax return is now under review by the IRS. The agency either needs to verify certain credits or dependents, or it has determined that your tax refund will be reduced to pay money that it believes you owe.

You'll need to wait about four weeks to receive a notice from the IRS explaining what you need to do to resolve the status.

There are other IRS refund codes that a small percentage of tax filers receive, indicating freezes, math errors on tax returns or undelivered checks. The College Investor offers a list of IRS refund reference codes and errors and their meaning.  

Can I call the IRS to get answers?

While you could try calling the IRS to check your status, the agency's live phone assistance is extremely limited. 

The IRS is directing taxpayers to the Let Us Help You page on its website and to get in-person help at Taxpayer Assistance Centers around the country. You can contact your local IRS office or call to make an appointment: 844-545-5640. You can also contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service if you're eligible for assistance by calling: 877-777-4778. 

Though the chances of getting live assistance are slim, the IRS says you should only call the agency directly if it's been 21 days or more since you filed your taxes online, or if the Where's My Refund tool tells you to. You can call 800-829-1040 or 800-829-8374 during regular business hours. 

If you have not received a refund yet, you shouldn't file a second tax return.

Why do I see "IRS TREAS 310" in my bank statement?

If you receive your tax refund by direct deposit, you may see IRS TREAS 310 listed in the transaction. The 310 code simply identifies the transaction as a refund from a filed tax return in the form of electronic payment. You may also see TAX REF in the description field for a refund.

If you see a 449 instead of 310, it means your refund has been offset for delinquent debt.

Why was my refund mailed instead of being deposited in my bank account?

There are a couple of reasons that your refund would be mailed to you. Your money can only be electronically deposited into a bank account with your name, your spouse's name or a joint account. If your bank rejected the deposit for some reason, it may be the next best way to get your refund. 

In addition, the IRS can only direct deposit up to three refunds to one account, so if you are getting multiple refund checks they will have to be mailed. If you're receiving a refund check in the mail, learn how to track it from the IRS to your mailbox.

It's important to note that direct deposit isn't always automatic for refunds. To be certain, sign in to your IRS account to check that the agency has your correct banking information.

How do I track my refund if it's coming in the mail?

The US Postal Service's Informed Delivery service is a free mail-tracking program that scans incoming letters and sends you an image when they are about to be delivered.

Informed Delivery has free apps for Android and iOS