Are you expecting a refund this year? Here are important items the IRS wants you to know about your refund.

Refund Options. You have three options for receiving your Federal income-tax refund: direct deposit, U.S. Savings Bonds or a paper check.

Separate Accounts. You may use IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund, to request that your refund be allocated by direct deposit among up to three separate accounts, such as checking or savings or retirement accounts. You may also use this form to buy U.S. Savings Bonds. You can use your refund to buy up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds.

Processing Time. If you file a complete and accurate paper return, your refund will usually be issued within six to eight weeks from the date it is received. If you filed electronically, your refund will normally be issued two weeks after the acknowledgement date.

Check the Status Online. The fastest and easiest way to find out about your current-year refund is to go to and click the "Where's My Refund?" link. You will need your Social Security number, filing status and the exact whole-dollar amount of the refund shown on your return.

Check the Status by Phone. You can check the status of your refund by calling the IRS at 800-829-1954. When you call, you will need to provide your SSN, your filing status and the amount of the refund.

Larger-than-Expected Refund. If you receive a refund to which you are not entitled, or one for an amount that is more than expected, do not cash the check until you receive a notice explaining the difference. Follow the instructions on the notice.

Smaller-than-Expected Refund. If you receive a refund for a smaller amount than you expected, you may cash the check. You might have made a mathematical error. Also, the IRS may have deducted part of the refund for delinquent Federal or state taxes, back child support, or student-loan arrears. But, if it is determined that you should have received more, you will later receive a check for the difference.

Refund, Then Audit. The mere fact that you receive a tax refund does not mean your return has been audited and approved. In fact, the IRS generally has three years to audit your return.

Missing Refund. The IRS will assist you in obtaining a replacement check for a refund check that is verified as lost or stolen. If the IRS was unable to deliver your refund because you moved, you can change your address online. Once your address has been changed, the IRS can reissue the undelivered check.

Be aware that the IRS updates its computer system once a day, typically at night. Refund information relating to your tax return can be available as soon as 24 hours after the IRS has received an electronically-filed return, or about four weeks after receiving a paper-filed tax return.

Barry Lisak is an IRS Enrolled Agent, meaning that he has passed special U.S. Treasury Department exams that qualify him to represent clients dealing with audits or tax-resolution cases. Any questions can be directed to him at (516) TAX-SAVE, or

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