Taxpayers swamp Internal Revenue Service status website looking for refunds

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Taxpayers eager for a refund have been inundating the IRS with requests on the government agency's "Where's My Refund?" Web page recently, slowing the site and making it inaccessible at times.

Now the agency is asking people to back off, saying it is not worth checking a refund's status more often than once a day because the site is only updated every 24 hours, usually overnight.

To avoid delays, the best times for checking on returns are evenings and weekends, the agency said.

Some taxpayers likely are antsy about getting their refunds because of delays in processing federal returns this year. The Internal Revenue Service began processing returns Jan. 30, eight days later than anticipated because of congressional wrangling over expiring tax cuts.

The agency is still unable to accept some tax filings from people who are claiming some less common tax credits because it is in the process of updating the forms. "These aren't credits the average taxpayer will be claiming," local IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins said.

The agency expects the remaining updates to be completed by early next month.

This year, people can get information on their refunds sooner than in previous years, starting within 24 hours if the paperwork is filed electronically and within about four weeks for returns that are mailed.

Also new this year is a personalized tracker online that displays a refund's progress through three stages -- confirming that a return was received, indicating that a refund was approved and indicating that a refund was sent.

People using the "Where's My Refund?" tool should be ready to provide their Social Security number, filing status and the expected refund amount.

Taxpayers who file returns electronically and sign up for direct deposit typically receive a refund in 21 days or less, the IRS said. In contrast, people who file paper returns can wait up to two months, depending on the volume of returns at the time.

To use "Where's My Refund?" visit www.irs.gov. The site also has information on protecting personal information from refund scams.

Taxpayers can check on refunds by telephone toll-free at 1-800-829-1954.

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Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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