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How long is it taking the IRS to process tax refunds?

Tips for last-minute tax filers
With tax return deadline just days away, expert offers last-minute tips 04:00

About 7 in 10 taxpayers this year are getting refunds from the IRS, with the typical check nearing $2,900 per filer. For the millions who wait until the last minute to file their returns, a pressing question is how long will it take to get that money in hand. 

So far, the tax season is running more smoothly than last year, when delays and processing snarls caught millions of returns in limbo, according to tax experts. 

The IRS this year has beefed up its operations by hiring 5,000 new staffers — including extra customer service agents to answer calls; and upgrading its technology, thanks to $80 billion in funding directed to the agency by the Inflation Reduction Act. That has helped deliver "dramatically improved service" in the current filing season, the Treasury Department said Monday.

When will I get my tax refund?

The IRS says the vast majority of refunds are sent within 21 calendar days of filing. 

That means if you wait until April 18 — the last day to file your 2022 tax return without asking for an extension — you should get your refund by May 9. 

However, that timeline applies to the 97% of people who file electronically. The IRS has warned it can take as long as 6 months or more to process paper returns. 

In a best-case scenario, a paper tax return could have you waiting about four weeks for a refund, according to the IRS.

"Where's my refund?" page

You can check the status of your refund through the "Where's My Refund?" page on the IRS website 24 hours after your return was filed electronically, the agency notes. 

To use the tool, you'll have to provide a few basic pieces of information: Your Social Security number, filing status (such as single or married filing jointly) plus your exact refund amount. 

The site will give you a "personalized refund date" after the agency processes your return and approves your refund. 

The tracker will tell you:

  • When the IRS receives your return, which means the agency is processing your tax forms.
  • When the refund is approved, which means the IRS is preparing to send your refund to your bank or mail a check to you.
  • When the refund is sent.

IRS tax return status

It's possible that your tax return could get delayed. The IRS notes that returns that need a correction can face a holdup.

This can happen if there's an error on your return like a math mistake or tax credit that wasn't claimed correctly. In this case, the IRS says it will mail a letter to the taxpayer, rather than call, text or email. 

Most tax returns are processed without an issue, however. Once the tax refund is approved, the "Where's My Refund?" site will tell you when the IRS will send the refund to your bank. The agency says that taxpayers should wait five days until after they've sent the refund to check with their bank, since it can take a while for financial institutions to credit the money to accounts. 

Paper checks can take "several weeks" to arrive in the mail, the IRS says.

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