IRS Tax Refund Is Nearly 30 Percent Lower This Filing Season

The total tax refunds sent by the IRS dropped by more than 76 percent as of Feb. 2.
IRS Tax Refund Is Nearly 30 Percent Lower This Filing Season
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington on Jan. 4, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Naveen Athrappully

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has sent lower tax refunds to taxpayers so far this filing season, with the agency blaming the situation on the delayed start of the season.

According to statistics released by the IRS on Friday, the federal income tax refund for the 2024 filing season averaged $1,395 as of Feb. 2. This is almost 29 percent less than the refunds for the 2023 filing season. The IRS claims the decrease is because last year’s filing season kicked off on Jan. 23, while this time around, it started seven days later on Jan. 29.

“Considering the loss of 7 days in this comparison, filing season statistics … show a strong start to filing season 2024, with all systems running well,” the agency said. Refunds via direct deposits have declined by a quarter from $2,056 to $1,543.

In total, the IRS has dispatched $3.64 billion in refunds this season, which is over 76 percent less than the $15.69 billion refunded last year. Other metrics like the total number of tax returns received, returns processed, and the number of refunds are, so far, lower in 2024.

Refund amounts are expected to go up as the IRS is waiting to issue some of the credits. For instance, the IRS is prohibited by law from sending Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credits (ACTC) before mid-February. The delay is aimed at preventing fraud.

According to a recent update, this season’s EITC and ACTC refunds are slated to be issued by Feb. 17 to early filers of the credits.

Taxpayers can receive up to $1,600 in refundable ACTC credits per qualifying child. EITC is available for Americans with annual incomes below $63,698 and pays up to $7,430 in credits for three or more qualifying children.
The deadline for filing taxes in the current season is April 15.

Higher Tax Refunds

While refund checks have been lower so far, some experts predict that people will see bigger refunds this year. In an interview with CBS, Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, said he is expecting refunds of some taxpayers to rise by double digits in the 2024 filing season than last year.

Elevated inflation forced the IRS to adjust many of its provisions in 2023, which pushed up standard deductions to a higher level and raised the tax brackets by 7.1 percent.

“Say your income didn’t keep pace with inflation—you made the same as the prior year but didn’t increase your income by that inflation rate of 7 percent or so—you could see a better refund.”

Modeling last year’s refund data and the inflation adjustments made by the IRS, Mr. Steber calculates up to 10 percent more refunds for such people. Last year, the earnings of a median worker rose by 5.5 percent, less than the IRS’ 7.1 percent inflation adjustments.

“A lot of people didn’t keep pace with inflation,” he said while adding that Americans in the middle and lower income groups are more likely to benefit from higher refunds.

Tax refunds are crucial for many households as they represent the largest annual cash injection into their budgets. Many households use the refunds to boost their savings or cut down their debts.

To get the biggest possible tax refund, taxpayers should ensure they select the right filing status. For instance, a person whose spouse has died is allowed to file as a widower for two years.

Filing as a widower rather than single allows the person to claim double the standard deduction. Such larger deductions can contribute to higher tax refunds.

Taxpayers who have made energy-efficient upgrades to their home, like installing new exterior doors, windows, or insulation, can claim tax credits under provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Getting Refunds

According to the agency, taxpayers who have e-filed their returns typically see their refund status after about 48 hours through an IRS webpage. The IRS usually takes up to 21 days to process refunds for e-filers.

In case the returns were filed by mail, refunds could take four weeks or more. If there are corrections, refunds will take longer.

The IRS offers multiple ways to get refunds—paper checks, U.S. savings bonds, mobile payment apps, and prepaid debit cards. However, a direct deposit “is the fastest way to get your refund.” Taxpayers who opt for this will get refunds in their checking, savings, or retirement accounts.

In case a taxpayer did not receive the refund they expected, it could be because there were some errors in their returns. Taxpayers will receive notifications in such situations explaining the changes made.

Another reason could be that the refund was used to pay off certain federal or state debts they owe. If the refund check is missing or destroyed, taxpayers can request a replacement check by calling the IRS’ automated system at 800-829-1954 or speaking directly with an agent at 800-829-1040.