Student tax refund or payment advice


If your student has filed or will soon file a tax return, they may have some questions. Maybe they’re wondering how they’ll spend their refund, or they’re contemplating how to pay taxes they may owe. Here are some potential next steps.

Show me the refund

The fastest ways for your student to receive their tax refund are to use an IRS e-file option (instead of a paper return), and to sign up for direct deposit. Direct deposit securely and electronically transfers your student’s refund directly into their account. The IRS issues more than 90% of refunds in less than 21 days.

Share the "Where's My Refund?" tool with your student for a projected refund date. The IRS updates the site once per day, usually overnight, so there's no need to check it more often than that. Your student will need to have their Social Security number or ITIN, filing status, and exact refund amount handy. Refund updates should appear 24 hours after e-filing or four weeks after mailing a paper return.

Your student can also download the official IRS2Go app to their mobile device to check their refund status, or call the automated IRS refund hotline at 1-800-829-1954.

Smart ways to spend a refund

First and foremost, encourage your student to be responsible. If they end up with a little extra cash, it’s far too easy to make poor decisions and spend it on wants instead of needs. Instead, encourage them to think about some of these ideas:

  • Catch up on bills.
  • Pay off debt.
  • Take care of auto repairs.
  • Increase (or start) their emergency fund.
  • Add it to savings (for a car or future down payment on a house).

When your student owes taxes

If your student ends up having to pay the government, they shouldn’t panic. There are options to pay the entire thing off at once or break it up into smaller payments. They can make electronic payments online, by phone or from a mobile device using the IRS2Go app. 

What if they can’t pay now?

The IRS is willing to spread out payments over time. Check out their online payment plan which allows your student to pay in monthly installments. if your student can’t pay all at once. Once they complete the online process, they’ll receive immediate notification of whether their agreement has been approved. They can also use the IRS’s Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier to see if they can settle their tax debt for less than the full amount they owe.


Each person’s tax situation depends upon individual circumstances. The information in this article is intended to serve as introductory tax information. Please consult a tax professional for personalized tax advice.