Home U.S Tax refunds flow into economy far behind last year's pace

Tax refunds flow into economy far behind last year's pace

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Tax refunds are flowing into pocketbooks — and the overall economy — much slower this season after a late start.

The Internal Revenue Service reported Thursday that the total dollar amount of tax refunds was down 59.2% through Feb. 19 — just one week after the IRS began processing tax returns on Feb. 12. 

Nearly $47.4 billion in tax refunds have been issued so far this year, but that’s a far cry from more than $117 billion in federal income tax refunds issued through Feb. 21, 2020.

The IRS started processing tax returns on Feb. 12, a much later kickoff date than usual. A year ago, the IRS began processing 2019 tax returns on Jan. 27.

The IRS said it needed the extra time to program its systems to reflect new tax rules that were signed into law Dec. 27. Plus the IRS has been busy sending out the second round of Economic Impact Payments in January. 

The Internal Revenue Service -- along with its Security Summit partners in the tax industry -- reports progress in December 2018 on efforts to crackdown on the filing of fraudulent tax returns to steal refund cash. File photo.

The slowdown reflects the fact that the IRS was not dealing with coronavirus-related shutdowns in January and February last year, which continue to slow down operations this year. And the latest data only reflects one week of processing tax returns. 

Some of this falloff is to be expected after essentially a two-week delay to the season kickoff. 

The April 15 tax deadline remains in place, though.

The average refund issued so far this year is $2,880 — down 7.8% from $3,125.



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