Where's my refund? IRS tool helps you answer that question.

'Where's my refund' has been updated this year, so you can find your status within 24 hours of filing your return electronically. The 'Where's my refund' tool won't give an estimated refund date immediately, but 90 percent of tax refunds should go out within 21 days. 

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File
Tai Sung, a master tax advisor for H&R Block, center, consults with clients about their taxes at his office in Rockville, Md., in 2012. The IRS has updated its 'Where's my refund' tool for this tax year, which will tell taxpayers the status of their refund within 24 hours of filing their return.

The Internal Revenue Service says it expects that 90 percent of tax refunds will be issued in a turnaround time of three weeks or less this year.

An IRS tool called "Where's My Refund?"  can give you an update on when your money will arrive – much the way you can use online tracking for the whereabouts of a package that's on the way.

The tool, also accessible via a mobile app called IRS2GO, has a new look this year. It "will include a tracker that displays progress through 3 stages," the IRS says in a release. Those stages are (1) When the return is received, (2) when the refund has been approved and (3) when the refund has been sent.

You'll be able to start seeing the status of your return sooner than in the past, the IRS says. But "in a change from previous filing seasons, taxpayers won’t get an estimated refund date right away." 

The consolation, again, is that for 90 percent of recipients the refunds will go out within 21 days.

One key thing to remember, if you haven't filed your return already: The turnaround time at the IRS will depend a lot on how you file. 

"In 2013 you will be able to start checking on the status of your return sooner – within 24 hours after we have received your e-filed return or 4 weeks after you mail a paper return."

One day versus four weeks. Hmmm. Could this be one the ways the IRS is encouraging people to file electronically rather than on paper? In any case, if you're eager for your refund, file electronically if you can.

Last year, Americans filed 148 million tax returns, about 120 million of which were filed electronically in some way. Many of the e-filers where tax professionals, filing on behalf of a client.

The vast majority of tax filers were owed a refund. According to IRS records, the average payment was $2,803 for the 110 million filers who got refunds.
To use "Where's My Refund?" you'll need to have some personal information handy: Your Social Security number (the IRS says it will remain encrypted and safe on IRS2GO), your filing status (such as "married, filing jointly"), and the expected amount of your refund. Plug that in, and you'll be able to see what stage your return is at.

Within 24 hours of getting your return, the IRS should show it as "received." ("Where's My Refund?" is updated once a day, usually overnight.)

If you've filed electronically, using accurate information (check the bank account and routing number, if you want the IRS to send the refund via direct deposit), that'll enhance your chances of getting the refund quickly.

Two final points:

First, watch out for refund scams, where crooks charge a fee on the pretext of helping you get a tax refund that you don't actually deserve.

Second, just because most people get their refunds fairly quickly doesn't mean you can bank on it. In some cases, the IRS warns, a refund is held up because it includes errors, is incomplete, or because it gets flagged for further review by the IRS. 

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