The average tax refund check is slightly smaller than last year, the Internal Revenue Service reported on Friday.
The average refund issued so far fell to $3,125, down 0.6% from $3,143 at the same time last year, according to IRS statistics. The number of refunds issued fell 2.9%.
Refund checks are crucial to many consumers who are living paycheck to paycheck. About 86% of Americans say their tax outcome makes or breaks their financial confidence for the year, according to Jeff Jones, president and chief executive at H&R Block.
“When Americans get their tax refunds, often times they’re not buying a new pair of shoes or going on vacation,” Jones says. “They’re dealing with financial necessities, not luxuries.”
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Why is my tax return lower?
Some refunds could be smaller for workers who didn’t change their paycheck withholdings after the tax overhaul passed by Congress in 2017, experts say.
Due to withholding changes in 2018, some taxpayers received larger paychecks because they they were paying less in taxes out of their paychecks during the year. For those Americans, their tax savings appeared in each paycheck, which could result in a smaller refund.
In some cases, taxpayers could wind up owing more in taxes if they failed to withhold enough from their regular paycheck.
The average federal income tax refund was $2,869 in 2019 based on returns filed through Dec. 27, 2019, down slightly from an average of $2,910 in 2018.
This tax season, the IRS has issued 37 million tax refunds as of Feb. 21, down by nearly 3% from the prior year. The earliest taxpayers could file returns was Jan. 27. The last day you can file is April 15.