Now you can go online, call a special toll-free number or even use your smartphone to check your refund status. The tracking options work regardless of whether you're awaiting a check in the mail or you've instructed the IRS to directly deposit your tax cash into one or multiple accounts.
The waiting game
Since 2003, taxpayers have been able to use the IRS' "Where's My Refund?" Web page to track down refunds directly from their own computers.
But exactly when you need this service depends on how you filed your tax return. The IRS says you can find out exactly where in the system your return is within 24 hours after the agency has received your e-filed tax return. If you mailed your return, you must wait four weeks before you can track it via the online search tool.
However, the IRS recommends that taxpayers not call too early or too often.
The agency says that refunds are generally issued within 21 days after receipt of a tax return and taxpayers should call only if they've been waiting longer than that. The best times to call, according to the IRS, are evenings and weekends. Also, one call a day should be sufficient since the system is updated just once every 24 hours.
However, if it's been more than three weeks since you filed and you're still waiting for your refund, it's time to log on and locate your money.
Necessary tracking data
To get started, you'll need your Social Security number, the filing status entered on your return and the amount you're expecting. Joint-return filers should enter the name and tax ID number of the spouse shown first on the return.
And don't do any rounding on the refund amount entry. The tracking program wants precise dollars and cents.
If you have any questions about exactly what information the IRS wants here, the "Where's My Refund?" program has links that will open up new screens with explanations of where you can find the information on your copy of your tax return.
After you've entered the necessary data, click and wait for the good news that your check is in the mail.
Dialing for tax dollars
If you don't have access to a computer or simply prefer using a telephone, you still can call the IRS to track down your refund.
A special automated toll-free line is dedicated to refund status reports. When you call (800) 829-1954, you'll need the same information the online system requires.
In addition to having a copy of your return on hand, it's always a good idea to have paper and pen ready to jot down any information, additional instructions or follow-up phone numbers that you might receive during the call.
And, as with the online system, don't call unless it's been the requisite number of weeks since you filed.