Now you can go online, call a special toll-free number or even use your smartphone to check your refund status. The tracking options work regardless of whether you're awaiting a check in the mail or you've instructed the IRS to directly deposit your tax cash into one or multiple accounts.
The waiting game
Since 2003, taxpayers have been able to use the IRS' "Where's My Refund?" Web page to track down refunds directly from their own computers.
But exactly when you need this service depends on how you filed your tax return. Processing times differ for paper and electronically filed 1040s. How you ask the IRS to send you your money also makes a difference.
If you e-file and request direct deposit, the IRS says it should take no longer than three weeks for you to get your refund. If you filed a paper return and asked that your check be mailed to you, it could take up to eight weeks.
Once you're past the time frame for issuance of your refund, it's time to log on and locate your money.
Necessary tracking data
To get started, you'll need your Social Security number, the filing status entered on your return and the amount you're expecting. Joint-return filers should enter the name and tax ID number of the spouse shown first on the return.
And don't do any rounding on the refund amount entry. The tracking program wants precise dollars and cents.
If you have any questions about exactly what information the IRS wants here, the "Where's My Refund?" program has links that will open up new screens with explanations of where you can find the information on your copy of your tax return.
After you've entered the necessary data, click and wait for the good news that your check is in the mail.
Dialing for tax dollars
If you don't have access to a computer or simply prefer using a telephone, you still can call the IRS to track down your refund.
A special automated toll-free line is dedicated to refund status reports. When you call (800) 829-1954, you'll need the same information the online system requires.
In addition to having a copy of your return on hand, it's always a good idea to have paper and pen ready to jot down any information, additional instructions or follow-up phone numbers that you might receive during the call.
And, as with the online system, don't call unless it's been the requisite number of weeks for your filing method.