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Early IRS data show returns are smaller this tax season

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Posted at 11:23 AM, Feb 16, 2023

Internal Revenue Service dataof returns filed by Feb. 3 indicate refunds are smaller this year than last tax season.

The data mean of the 8 million refunds processed in the early weeks of tax season, the average refund was $1,963, a $238 decrease from this time a year ago.

But among early filers, taxpayers were more likely to earn a refund this year. In the early weeks of tax season, 42% of the 18.9 million Americans who filed tax returns by Feb. 3 are getting a refund. Last year, just 26% of the 16.7 million people who filed taxes by Feb. 4 got a refund.

The net result is that the U.S. has paid out nearly $16 billion in refunds compared to $10 by this point a year ago.

One reason for the smaller average tax refunds is that 2022 did not include the type of economic stimulus seen in 2020 and 2021. Although Americans were able to obtain the expanded child tax credit and stimulus checks prior to tax season, many were able to claim those funds during tax season.

The IRS said the next two weeks are when they are fielding the most questions. The agency said it recommends taxpayers use the IRS’ website before calling with questions.

In response to slowdowns in response in recent years and a smaller number of audits of high-income earners, Congress authorized the hiring of 87,000 new IRS employees.

"The IRS continues to see improvements this tax season compared to previous years, including better phone service," said IRS Acting Commissioner Doug O'Donnell. "But we always see a significant surge in phone traffic around Presidents Day. With the calendar advancing, millions of people turn their attention to taxes during this period. To avoid potential delays, we encourage people to check IRS.gov first, which can provide much of the same information instantly to taxpayers."