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How Long Does It Take for the IRS to Mail Tax Refund Checks?

By Laurel Tincher · January 05, 2024 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

How Long Does It Take for the IRS to Mail Tax Refund Checks?

If you’re expecting a refund from the IRS, you shouldn’t have to wait too long for your money. According to the IRS, it issues about 90% of refunds within three weeks of receiving your filing. Key to receiving your refund quickly are two actions on your part: using e-file and providing your bank info for direct deposit.

In fact, a directly deposited refund can show up in as little as five days.

This table shows the estimated times for receiving an IRS tax refund depending on how you file and choose to get your refund:

Estimated Federal Tax Refund Schedule
Filing Method and Receiving Method E-File, Direct Deposit Paper File, Direct Deposit E-File, Check in Mail Paper File, Check in Mail
Time between filing date and receiving refund 1-3 weeks 3 weeks 1 month 2 months

What Money Will Be Included In My Tax Refund This Year?

Of course, the size of your refund depends on how much you overpaid. But the average refund for individuals in 2023 was $2,753. That figure is down from 2022, when the average tax refund was $3,012.

To get your refund faster, you may want to file earlier, rather than waiting until the last minute. Typically, the tax season, when the IRS starts accepting and processing returns, starts in late January.


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Reasons for Your Tax Refund to be Delayed

People typically receive their tax refund two weeks after the IRS accepts their tax filing if they opt to receive a direct deposit, or in three weeks if they choose to get a check in the mail. But if you’re still waiting after that point and wondering where your tax refund is, here are a few possible reasons for the delay:

•   If anything in your return is incomplete or incorrect, the IRS may need to give the return further review before sending you a refund check. In this case, you may get a notice from the IRS in the mail with instructions for fixing or completing your tax return. It may take up to four months for the IRS to process returns that require extra handling. The sooner you respond to the IRS request for information, the sooner your return will be processed.

•   If you are claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, there may be a delay in receiving your tax refund. The IRS is required to hold any tax returns for people claiming those two tax credits until mid-February. This hold will show up in the “Where’s My Refund” tool on the IRS site if it applies to you.

•   Your bank or credit union may take more time to post a refund to your account. The time for posting IRS refunds varies from institution to institution.

Recommended: IRS Tax Refund Dates and Deadlines

How to Use the ‘Where’s my Refund’ Tool on the IRS Site

The IRS has a “Where’s My Refund” tool on irs.gov where anyone can check and see the status of their tax refund. It can also be accessed using the IRS2Go mobile app. If you submit your tax return electronically, you can easily check on the status of your refund online within 24 hours of filing. If you mail your tax return, it will take about a month or longer for any information about refunds to show up on the IRS site.

In order to access your refund information on the IRS website, you will need to input your social security number, tax filing status, and the dollar amount that you expect to receive on the return. Double check your information before submitting it: If the wrong social security number is entered, this could result in an error, extra identity verification steps, and even a delay in receiving your tax refund.

What Do the IRS Tax Return Statuses Mean?

There are three different IRS tax return statuses that you will see when you use the Where’s My Refund tool. Here’s what they mean:

Received

Once the IRS has received a return, it is marked as received. You can check to see if your return has been received using the “Where’s My Refund” tool on the IRS site.

Approved

Once the IRS processes a tax return and there are no errors or missing information, it is marked as approved. At that point, the process of sending a refund by mail or direct deposit can begin.

Sent

When the IRS mails out a refund check or sends a direct deposit refund, the tax return status is marked as “sent.”


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How to Contact the IRS About Your Tax Refund

It’s best to wait at least 21 days after filing your return electronically, and six weeks after mailing your return, to contact the IRS by phone. At that point, you can call the IRS refund hotline at 800-829-1954.

Recommended: 41 Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

The Takeaway

Knowing when you’ll receive your tax refund can be helpful if you’re planning to use the money to pay off debt, create a budget, or save for a big purchase. Filing your return electronically and opting to get your refund via direct deposit will allow you to get your return quickly, typically within three weeks. A money tracker app can help you manage your finances, including your refund, and track your spending and savings.

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FAQ

How quickly will I get my refund?

Most refunds are sent within three weeks of the IRS receiving a tax filing, but it can sometimes take longer, especially if you mail your return or opt to get your refund by check through the mail.

It’s been longer than 21 days since the IRS received my return and I haven’t gotten my refund. Why?

Sometimes the IRS needs to manually review tax returns if they are incomplete, have errors, or if fraud is suspected. Also, if a taxpayer claims certain tax credits, such as the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, his or her return may take longer to process.

Will calling help me get my refund any faster?

Calling may help you track where your refund is, but it won’t necessarily help you get it faster. Wait at least 21 days after filing your return electronically, and six weeks after mailing your return to contact the IRS by phone. You can call the IRS refund hotline at 800-829-1954.


Photo credit: iStock/rez-art

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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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