Reactions To IRS Tax Refund Status Updates: A Stream-of-Consciousness Diary

Reactions To IRS Tax Refund Status Updates: A Stream-of-Consciousness Diary

We frequently receive questions from users about the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? tool. This tool, which offers status updates on a taxpayer’s refund, can be extremely helpful but it can also lead to some unneeded anxiety when used too frequently. The tool says it’s only updated once a day and each time it changes may be cause for celebration, because you’re one step closer to your refund. However, following it too closely can add undue stress as demonstrated in the following hypothetical journey of a tax filer…


Yes!! I finally finished my taxes. Thank goodness – that’s been weighing on my mind for weeks now. One huge checkmark, and it’s off my to-do list. Phew! So, hmmm, let’s see – it looks like after 24 hours, I can check the IRS website to make sure it’s been received and everything’s OK. Sound good, I’ll have to remember to do that tomorrow.


Hey, I almost forgot – I’d better go check that status tracker. Awesome! Looks like they accepted it, no issue there. Good. Wow, this is a great tool, I’ll have to keep checking back to see when my refund will be arriving…


Hmm, no change yet on the tracker. Wonder if everything’s ok. Surely it is; it just hasn’t been long enough yet.


OK, now I’m starting to worry. Really, IRS? Nothing yet? I filed a whole week ago – shouldn’t there be some movement on this tracker at this point?

Wednesday AM

Nothing. This is so weird. Should I call the IRS? Maybe I did something wrong…maybe I forgot something?

Wednesday PM

OK, I can’t take it anymore. I’m calling them.

45 minutes on hold? Never mind.


FINALLY! Yes!!!!! My refund has been approved!! It’s due to be deposited soon – yippee!!! I can go get those shoes I’ve been eyeing, pay off some bills, maybe put some into savings…  You know what? I’m going to treat myself to a fancy dinner – a night on the town! Let me call my friends – let’s schedule it for the day after my refund gets here! Whoo-hoo!!!


What. This can’t be right. It changed – again? They’re reviewing my return now? Didn’t they already review it before? Why would they tell me I was getting a refund, and then take it back like that? What does this mean?

Oh my gosh, am I in trouble? Did I do something wrong by accident? I was allowed to deduct those work expenses, wasn’t I? I still have the receipts….or do I? Where are they? Oh my gosh, what if I have to go through an audit?! This is a nightmare, I’m probably going to jail! I’d better call my mom – maybe she knows a good lawyer…


I am going to binge watch Orange is the New Black to prepare myself. This is it – I’m done for. Goodbye, future. I’ll be in jail, after the IRS guys in suits come take me away for some dumb mistake I didn’t even realize I was making…


Wait, what?! It’s back on? The refund is approved after all? It’s headed my way again? Oh thank goodness, what a relief!! But wait – I’m not going to trust it now – it may switch back, who knows? I’m not opening my blinds till I get that refund in the bank, just in case…. Ack! There goes someone in a suit outside…OK, phew, he didn’t stop.


OK, still good.


Still there, good.

Thursday 8 AM


Thursday 9 AM

I’m not worried.

Thursday 10 AM

Looking good.

Thursday 11 AM

OK, OK, stop it.

21 Days After Filing

It’s here!!!  It’s finally here!! I’m not getting audited, I’m not going to jail – I’m going to dinner! What was I worried about? So silly of me – of course I didn’t do anything wrong. See ya, IRS tracker!

Whether this emotional journey sounded familiar or not, reacting to refund status changes is often much ado about nothing.’s software walks you through your taxes, so hopefully you’re less concerned with making calculation mistakes, or forgetting something important. File with today, and you can take a deep breath – it’s gonna be okay.

What If Your Income Tax Refund Never Shows Up?

A taxpayer’s worst nightmare? Well, that may be a little dramatic. But when you’re expecting a nice big, juicy income tax refund, and then you never receive it? That’s pretty high up there on the list of nightmare tax scenarios.

So what can you do, if it happens to you? Here are some steps you can take to help investigate the situation.

1. Check your tax return.

Whether you asked the IRS to mail you a check or direct deposit your refund into your bank account, they’ll be sending it to the exact place you told them to – typos, transposed digits, mistakes and all. Take a close look at your return to see if any information was inaccurate.

2. Call your bank.

If you chose to have your refund direct deposited, there can occasionally be a delay in posting the funds to your account.

3. Contact the IRS.

If the above two steps don’t turn up anything. The IRS will be able to tell you if and when the refund was sent. You may need to fill out a Refund Trace – either online or by printing a form – which will allow them to begin processing your inquiry.

The quickest, safest, and easiest way to get your refund is to file your taxes electronically, and have your refund direct deposited. Using and choosing direct deposit will usually get you money in hand in 21 days. Just be sure to double check the routing and account numbers you enter for your bank account, and find out if your bank has any special rules that might apply.