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Track down your tax refund

By Kay Bell ·
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Posted: 1 pm ET

A month ago, most of us were staring down tax day by finishing up our 1040s. OK, I'm taking some liberties by using "us," since I'm one of the 9 million or so taxpayers who got an extension, but you know what I mean.

And most of us (OK, most prompter-than-I) filers also got or will get tax refunds.

I've been hearing, however, from readers who've had their refunds held up because of first-time homebuyer issues. They're still waiting for their money, despite a promise from Doug Shulman, Internal Revenue Service commissioner, that his troops had worked out the problem.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good news here. This is yet another reason why the 2011 filing season was the worst ever for lots of folks.

The best the IRS and I can tell anyone waiting for a refund is to keep checking. The IRS prefers you use its Where's My Refund? online search engine, but you also can call the agency toll-free at (800)829-1040 if you want to fight talk with a human about your refund's status.

Of course, if you didn't get a refund in the first place, you wouldn't be dealing with this frustration right now.

I know, I know. Tax overwithholding is an easy way to save a few (or more) bucks every year. But when you do that, you run the risk of waiting, and waiting and waiting, for your tax refund.

And some states are even worse than the Internal Revenue Service. Remember a couple of years ago when California sent its residents who were expecting refund checks IOUs instead?

Given the budget troubles many states are facing, taxpayer refunds tend to fall to the bottom of the list. So you might want to keep that in mind if you also get a big refund each year from your state tax department.

Or, after you check the status of your federal (and state) tax refund, you also might want to consider adjusting your withholding so that you don't go through this next year. Just something to think about while you're waiting.

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