The IRS has taken many steps to modernize the way it processes tax returns and pays its refunds. It all happens much more quickly now than it once did. This is good news for those who are hoping that their refund arrives before their big spring vacation – having extra cash on hand would reduce the costs incurred or enable some nice upgrades. However, waiting for a check in the mail is seemingly exponentially harder than watching grass grow and certainly longer than waiting for a pot to boil.

The IRS claims that it sends out nine of 10 refunds within 21 days. It also recommends that those in a hurry use the IRS e-filing system with direct deposit of the refund. These direct deposits began going out to taxpayers’ bank accounts on February 27.

They got an app for that

Some will no doubt be surprised that the IRS even has an app for taxpayers to track their refund. The aptly titled “Where’s My Refund?” is available for free download by going to the IRS web site. Taxpayers can use the app to track their return within 24 hours of e-filing or four weeks after sending the traditional paper version through the postal service. It will then show the status of return by indicating:

  1. Return received
  2. Refund approved
  3. Refund sent

Taxpayers need to have their Social Security Number, the tax filing status of the return (i.e. single, married, head of household) as well as the amount claimed on the return. The app’s information is updated every 24 hours, which is a lot less frustrating than obsessively checking your bank account.

When is it time to start worrying?

There is no need for concern until the following has come to pass:

  • It has been 21 days since e-filing my return
  • It has been six weeks since I dropped my return in the mail
  • The app tells me to contact the IRS

What about audits, disputes and penalties?

Taxpayers who owe should pay as much as they possibly can, even resorting to a loan because it will be cheaper than the penalties. They can explore payment options by going to the IRS’s payments section. Those in dispute with the IRS’s assessment are advised to contact tax law attorney with experience handling taxes here in Texas. CPAs are great for filing a return, but an attorney will be the most help if there is a dispute or an audit.