On my post covering the IRS Refund Cycle Schedule I am seeing a lot of comments around the refund processing status’ on the IRS Where is My Refund (WMR) website or on the IRS2Go mobile app. Clearly there is a lot of confusion as people anxiously await their refunds and are unclear of how the IRS is processing their returns. In fact if you search tax forums one of the most common questions are around differences between the 3 WMR status trackers which are Return Accepted, Refund (Return) Approved and Refund Sent (with direct deposit date). The tracker is updated daily (~3AM EST) so there is no need to constantly check it.

You can start using the WMR website or IRS2Go app to start checking on the status of your return 24 hours after the IRS receives your e-filed return or 4 weeks after you mail a paper return. As the IRS processes your return it will progress through the 3 stages: (1) Return Received, (2) Refund Approved and (3) Refund Sent.

Here are more details on each status and what each one means:

Status Bar 1: Return Received is the same as “Return Accepted by the IRS.” This means that your tax return has passed initial screens by the IRS covering rudimentary fraud checks, verifying your SSN and ensuring no obvious red flags on your return.  Your tax return will remain in this status while the IRS processes it in more detail to ensure it is compliant and the refund amount is accurate. Your refund can remain in the status for a while if it is complex or the IRS feels further information is needed.  The IRS is however saying it processes most returns in 21 days if your return is not flagged for further review.

There is no need to follow-up with the IRS if the WMR tool shows the status of Return Received. If this status is showing, the IRS is processing your return and further calls or letters won’t speed up the process. There is no status of “under review” so sometimes your status may be stuck in this status (or even disappear) while the IRS completes its reviews

WMR Status GraphicStatus Bar 2: Refund Approved status will appear if your tax return checks out and and your return has been approved for payout by direct deposit or check. A personalized refund date will be provided and the WMR status will now be Refund Approved. If you elected the direct deposit (DD) option for your refund, you will get a date by which it should be credited to your account. While the IRS does promise that it will process most returns in under 21 days, it could take longer if complications come up. This delay is what frustrates most tax payers as the IRS does at times provide limited information if errors in your return are spotted. While some information is provided on WMR and IRS2Go, the IRS will generally mail you for further detailed information. This could add days, weeks and even months if lots of additional information is need. So ensure your tax return is as accurate when filing.

Status Bar 3: Refund Sent as the name implies means the IRS has sent your refund to your nominated bank account(s). It will give you a specific date the refund was sent. Direct Deposit payment are generally processed within 5 days. I.e. the money will be in your bank available for withdrawal within 5 days of the refund sent date. Contact your bank or financial institution only if you have not received your return after 5 days of the IRS refund sent date. If you requested a paper check this means your check has been mailed and could take 7+ days for you to receive this via mail. It could take weeks if your mailing address is outside the US.

Here is more refund information from the bigger online tax providers – > TurboTax  &  TaxAct

Help! My WMR status bar has disappeared

Per the IRS, the WMR tracker graphic may disappear or not be shown if your return falls under IRS review after it is received (Status Bar 1: Return Received) because additional information is needed for your return. An explanation or instructions will be provided depending on the situation. This can happen even if you previously checked WMR and it showed the status as “Return Received.” The IRS still has your return but things are essentially on hold until the IRS gets the additional information from you to continue processing your return . You will either get directions on WMR or IRS2Go or the IRS will contact you by mail. Follow the provided instructions and return any additional information ASAP to get your potential refund and reduce any further delays. Talk to your accountant, tax advocate or tax professional if you are not clear on what the IRS is asking for.

Here a sampling of some comments and responses from readers of this site on this topic and WMR refund status/processing:

(From Dorothy) We wait and wait all year long then bam we file we get a big refund and we are told 10 to 21 days and what do we do. We sit here looking at our refund tracker we log on to WMR site and we check wmr2go we just keep watching and waiting for our Money. Then just when we are not looking something changes meaning our bars move and we check our accounts and there’s our Money. But here’s what bugs me the most. The IRS is looking at us and sees we owe them and way before we get notice or told what to do next. They are saying NOW you must pay. What if we made them WAIT. Or when a letter comes we send it back with a response we will get back to you in 5 to 10 days. Wonder what they would think. But here’s for all of us ITS OUR MONEY AND WE WANT IT NOW

(From Brandi on her WMR experience) To those who have been told that your returns are under review I e-filed on Jan 5th last year but of course it wasn’t sent to IRS until Jan 20th (when IRS starts accepting returns). It was accepted the next day. My bars on WMR disappeared after about about a week and have not reappeared since. I was informed on 2/10 that my return went under review on 2/2 and to expect it in 6-8 weeks. On 2/24 I received a [IRS] letter stating that I needed to verify my identity before my return could be processed further. I called and sat on hold for 1hr 45 min before talking to a person. I verified my name, social security number, birthdate, address, fathers name, childs birthdate, childs social security number and the total amout of my return. By the way, none of my personal info has changed in the last 10 years. I was then told that my return would now be returned to the processing department to be completed and to expect it within 6 weeks from that day. Yes, 6 more weeks from the date i verified my information. Unless there is some other problem, then i will be contacted by mail to provide whatever else is needed. This was the worse case scenario she said but was preparing me just in case. I doubt it will be 6 more weeks or that they will need anything else but I am so upset that I have been waiting since Jan 20th and it took over one month just to receive a letter to verify info that has not changed in over 10 years. Now I’m waiting 6 more weeks for my money. I know everyones situation is different but if you have been waiting a while or were told yours is under review or you need to do identity verification, this is possibly what you could expect to happen with your return. Bottom line just don’t depend on the IRS to be fast this year. Some are getting their returns quick and then there are some like myself that will be waiting much longer!

(From Mary Elizabeth) I understand that this is a stressful situation. My own bars had disappeared for six days now while I was accepted on the 21st. I am due a refund according to Turbotax by 2/11.  The number and extension provided below has personally helped me through my own tax problems, as well as my friends and loved ones; while the general or common number gives millions of people the “automated voice” and “runaround”.

If someone to reach a real person in the IRS office, do the following:

1) First, make sure the time is at 7amEST in the morning. (Note: this is the perfect time to reach someone to avoid LONG wait times!)
2) Call 1-800-829-0582 and press extension 633 (Don’t worry, this department is the quickest and will still research your situation to give you a definite answer)
3) Good Luck
(From Mike P.)
 Ok I know everyone is saying the same thing similar to my problem too, which does relieve me a little. But I filed mine on the 7th of January, accepted on the 11th and WMR still says only accepted. I have been checking daily for the past week with the same result. After researching this a bit more and reading some of y’alls comments, yes I confirmed it that the IRS told me on the phone today that they didn’t start processing refunds until they opened on the 19th. Which means within 21 days of the 19th my dd should arrive and to keep checking the wmr link at irs.gov. However, some of you posted you got yours accepted on a later date and say your dd will arrive today (29th)?? I also believe that! Esp. since I filed before those people did?! Another positive was someone said refunds are deposited on Fridays and at the end of the month too and today is Friday the 29th! I try to be patient but we have plans and it is hard to keep waiting like this! I am hopeful that maybe I’ll get mine today too!

Some of these examples are likely what you are facing so hopefully the answers here can help you. Please leave a comment below if you need more feedback or want to share your experience.

Some useful IRS Phone Numbers to Get More Information on Your Return and/or Refund
Talk To a Live Person
(800) 829-0582 Ext. 652

Tax Help Line
(800) 829-1040
for human? press 1 for English, then 0, 0 again

Refund Hotline
(800) 829-1954

(800) 829-4477
Taxpayer Advocate Service Hotline

Turbo Tax Customer Service Line
(877) 908-7228

H&R Block Customer Service Line
(800) 472-5625