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Anne Powelson Anne Powelson
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Where's my refund?

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Where's my refund? You're not alone in wondering; the IRS site for checking on refunds cautions that heavy use may limit its availability.

Tax season has had an unusual start. Very few returns were accepted prior to Jan. 30. Returns requiring a depreciation form were not accepted until Feb. 11. Returns claiming educational credits were delayed until Feb. 14. Residential Energy credits and Adoption Credit returns weren't accepted until March.  

So once my return is accepted, when will I get my refund? The IRS expects to issue 90 percent of refunds within a 21-day period. You may check on the status of your refund at irs.gov by clicking on the 'Where's My Refund?' icon. To check on your return you will need to know your social security number, filing status and exact value of your refund. 'Where's My Refund?' will show three different statuses:  'Return Received,' 'Refund Approved' and 'Refund Sent.' For electronically filed returns, your status should be available 24 hours after you have filed; information on paper returns should be available four weeks after you mail in your return. 'Where's My Refund?' tracks current year initial returns only. Prior year returns and amendments are not tracked on the system. 'Where's My Refund?' updates only once each day, usually at night.

How can I avoid being the one in 10 with a late refund? Situations which could cause a delay in your refund include an error on the tax return, an offset situation, including Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, or the IRS needing further review prior to issuing the refund.

What is an offset situation? The Department of the Treasury's Financial Management Service has been authorized by Congress to conduct the Treasury Offset Program. If you are behind on back taxes, alimony, child support, student loans or other federally sponsored loans, your refund may be used to pay these debts. To find out if your refund might be offset, you can call the IRS Offset line, 800-304-3107. The available hours for this line are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 pm. You will also be sent a notice if an offset is applied to your refund.

What is an injured spouse? An injured spouse is one who expects her (or his) refund to be offset to pay debts owed by her (his) spouse. An injured spouse should file an Injured Spouse Allocation, Form 8379. This form requires the injured spouse to certify some information about the debt, and lists each spouse's income and taxes withheld separately. The IRS will evaluate the form and determine what refund is issued to the injured spouse.  

When will the IRS request additional information? The IRS will request additional information when a return is incomplete, contains errors, or if the IRS needs to verify information to assure a refund is not issued fraudulently.  

Maine Revenue Services, maine.gov/revenue, also has a 'Where's My Refund?' link which allows you to check on the status of your Maine Income Tax refund or Property Tax and Rent refund.

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