When the average tax refund last year is over three thousand dollars, I can understand why taxpayers might be anxious to know where there refund is. Fortunately, the answer is very simple – use the IRS’s Where’s My Refund  tool. You can’t use it until 72 hours after you e-file or four weeks after you mail your return (hint hint: e-file!). You’ll need your Social Security Number, your filing status, and the exact refund amount. Without those three pieces of information, you can’t look up the status of your refund because they can’t authenticate that it’s your return.
The IRS rule of thumb on when you will get your refund depends on how you file. If you e-file, you should get it in 10-21 days. If you opt for direct deposit, you’ll get it a few days after than the check, since the check will have to work its way through the mail system. Direct deposit is free. If you mail in your return, don’t hold your breath because you won’t get your tax refund until much later. Paper returns need to be processed (converted into electronic, double checked, etc.) and that process takes a much longer time.
IRS eFile Refund Schedule
In general, when you use e-file and choose direct deposit, the IRS will initiate the direct deposit one week after the next Tuesday. If you opt for a paper check, the check is mailed two days later. If you transmit your return between March 22nd and March 28th (by 11 AM), assuming no hiccups, the IRS will direct deposit your refund on April 4th and mail out a check on April 6th. Transmit your return on March 29th and you enter in the next week (3/29 – 4/4), you can expect a direct deposit on April 11th and a check on April 13th. These are just estimates, no guarantees.
2012 Estimated Schedule
|IRS Acceptance||Direct Deposit||Paper Check Mail|
|Jan 17 – Jan 18 (by 11am)||Jan 25||Jan 27|
|Jan 19 – Jan 25||Feb 1||Feb 3|
|Jan 26 – Feb 1||Feb 8||Feb 10|
|Feb 2 – Feb 8||Feb 15||Feb 17|
|Feb 9 – Feb 15||Feb 22||Feb 24|
|Feb 16 – Feb 22||Feb 29||Mar 2|
|Feb 23 – Feb 29||Mar 7||Mar 9|
|Mar 1 – Mar 7||Mar 14||Mar 16|
|Mar 8 – Mar 14||Mar 21||Mar 23|
|Mar 15 – Mar 21||Mar 28||Mar 30|
|Mar 22 – Mar 28||Apr 4||Apr 6|
|Mar 29 – Apr 4||Apr 11||Apr 13|
|Apr 5 – Apr 11||Apr 18||Apr 20|
|Apr 12 – Apr 18||Apr 25||Apr 27|
This same schedule extends beyond the “tax season,” which ends on the tax due date  – which is April 17th this year, but I think you get the idea.