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Where's my tax refund? The IRS has a tracker for that

IRS may already be behind on refunds

With the IRS processing tax refunds more slowly in the wake of a partial government shutdown, many Americans are asking where their money is.

Luckily, there's an app for that. Taxpayers who are getting a refund can check on its status is via the tax agency's "Where's my refund?" page. (Most tax software companies will direct questions to that same page.)

To check, you must have your taxpayer ID number (often your Social Security number), your filing status and the exact amount of your refund. It works only if you've already filed your tax return and have waited 24 hours after electronic filing.

The curious taxpayer would also need to consent to being tracked. Clicking on the tracking tool creates a pop-up that says, in part, "Use of this system constitutes consent to monitoring, interception, recording, reading, copying or capturing by authorized personnel of all activities. There is no right to privacy in this system."

An IRS spokesman didn't immediately comment on the reasons for the tracking or how the gathered information would be used. A separate "privacy policy" page notes that the IRS doesn't attempt to identify individual users "unless we suspect illegal behavior."

Certain tax credits mean waiting longer

The refund timeline for the many Americans who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit is somewhat easier to establish. No matter how early they filed their return, no refunds will be deposited until Feb. 27. They'll be available to track via the refund tracker starting on Feb. 23, the IRS said.

Overall, the agency issues 90 percent of refunds within 21 days, it said.

Projections from November -- calculated long before the record-long partial shutdown -- show that the IRS expected to issue the most refunds between Feb. 15 and 21.

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It's still uncertain how many people will get refunds this year. A study this summer from the Government Accountability Office projected that about 4.6 million more taxpayers than usual would owe on their tax returns this year.