Early IRS statistics point to smaller average refund size this year

Days into this year's tax filing season, people are so far seeing smaller refunds compared to the same period last year, according to early statistics from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS's first weekly report this year of filing-season data found that the average refund amount through Feb. 1 was $1,865 — 8.4 percent smaller than the average refund last year as of Feb. 2.

There were also fewer taxpayers who filed their returns in the first few days of this year's filing season. The IRS said it received more than 16 million returns as of Feb. 1, down more than 12 million from the same time last year.

The statistics mark an early look at the filing season, which started Jan. 28 and ends in mid-April. Taxpayers who claim certain refundable tax credits won't start receiving refunds until later this month. By law, the IRS can't issue those taxpayers refunds until Feb. 15.

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This year's filing season will be closely watched, as it's the first year that people's tax filings will reflect many of the changes made in Republicans' 2017 tax law.

While most people are expected see a tax cut, Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns that some people expecting refunds will owe the IRS money instead because they didn't have enough taxes withheld from their paychecks throughout the year.

This year's filing season also started just days after the 35-day government shutdown ended. The IRS saw its funding lapse during the shutdown, leaving many of its employees furloughed or working without pay.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinFormer Sears holding company sues ex-CEO, Mnuchin and others over 'asset stripping' On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today MORE on Friday praised Treasury and IRS employees for "successfully" starting the filing season.

“Filing season has successfully launched with millions of tax returns having been filed,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “We thank the Treasury and IRS employees who have been working diligently to ensure the system is processing these returns efficiently.”