Average tax refunds about $3K as filing season hits midpoint

THE AVERAGE federal tax refund average was about $3,008 for the week ending March 8, $4 more than the previous year. The IRS estimates it will ultimately issue about 2.3 percent fewer refunds this year as a result of changes to how much were withheld from paychecks. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO
THE AVERAGE federal tax refund average was about $3,008 for the week ending March 8, $4 more than the previous year. The IRS estimates it will ultimately issue about 2.3 percent fewer refunds this year as a result of changes to how much were withheld from paychecks. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO

NEW YORK – The IRS has sent out 3.3 percent fewer tax refunds so far this year, but the average refund size continues to track with prior years, according to IRS data released Thursday.

Key insights

The average refund was about $3,008 for the week ending March 8, approximately halfway through the filing season. That’s slightly up from $3,004 at this point last year. The number of refunds and the total value of refunds are both down more than 3 percent compared to this point in the filing season last year. Average refund values initially lagged behind last year’s numbers but have closed the gap in recent weeks. “Taxes are down so refunds should be down,” Mnuchin said in congressional testimony Thursday. Mnuchin added that many people did not change their withholding and so refunds are consistent with last year.

Dig deeper

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The IRS estimates it will ultimately issue about 2.3 percent fewer refunds this year as a result of changes to how much were withheld from paychecks. About four in five taxpayers received a tax cut last year, according to the Tax Policy Center, but it didn’t necessarily show up as a refund check. The IRS has received about 67.7 million returns so far this year. The agency anticipate taxpayers will file about 157 million returns this year. Tax refunds, often the biggest check many people receive all year, are critical for consumer spending. Refunds help keep bank account balances elevated for more than six months after the checks are deposited. The filing deadline for most states is April 15.

Laura Davison is a reporter for Bloomberg News.