The IRS will begin processing most individual income tax returns starting Thursday, but as soon as individuals start filing their taxes, they’ll soon want to know where and when they can expect to receive their refunds.

That’s why the IRS created “Where’s My Refund?,” a nice digital tool designed to accommodate individual inquiries from taxpayers about the status of their refund. This year, the IRS has refreshed, enhanced and polished its “Where’s My Refund?” app for the 2013 tax season, making it more automated and accurate than ever before.

Before “Where’s My Refund?” came along, taxpayers were previously provided with a “projected refund date” by the IRS, but refund dates can change due to a series of various circumstances, such as math errors, or missing attachments, or wrong information like one’s Social Security number. In turn, the IRS’ projected refund dates were often inaccurate, leaving taxpayers frustrated and confused.

With “Where’s My Refund?,” which is now accessible starting today, a new progressive feature called a “refund tracker” displays the return in refund process in three separate stages, so as your return moves through the various processing stages, the tracker will advance from once stage to the next until your refund has been issued.

Here is a list of stages, provided by the IRS and “Where’s My Refund?,” which also detail the associated messages taxpayers may receive at each stage:

1. Return Received (Message received after 24 hours for e-filed returns and after four weeks for paper mailed returns.)

· We have received your tax return and it is being processed.

· You should get your refund within 21 days from the date we received your tax return.

· Please check here or use our free mobile app, IRS2Go, to check on your refund.

2. Refund Approved

· Your tax refund is scheduled to be sent to your bank on (MMDDYYYY). (Direct deposit date of refund) or (Other appropriate text if a paper check)

· If your refund is not credited to your account by (the above date), check with your bank to see if it has been received.

· Please Note: For refund information, please continue to check here, or use our free mobile app, IRS2Go. Updates to refund status are made no more than once a day.

3. Refund Sent

· Your refund was sent to your bank on (MMDDYYY) for direct deposit (or other appropriate text if a paper check).

· If your refund is not credited to your account by (MMDDYYY), check with your bank to find out if it was received (or other appropriate text if a paper check).

To get started using “Where’s My Refund?,” taxpayers need to have a copy of their 2013 tax returns for reference, and must be able to provide their social security number, filing status and the exact dollar amount of the refund they’re expecting. “Where’s My Refund?” updates every 24 hours, typically overnight, so there’s no need to check the site more than once a day.

What do you think of the IRS tool “Where’s My Refund?” Do you plan on using it as you file your 2013 taxes? Let us know in the comments section below.