Treasury calls reports on dip in tax refunds 'misleading'

The Treasury Department on Monday said reports of a reduction in average tax refunds in 2019 are "misleading."

In a tweet, the department said refund amounts have been consistent with 2017 levels and "down slightly" from last year, something it blamed on a small sample size.

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"News reports on reduction in IRS filings & refunds are misleading. Refunds are consistent with 2017 levels and down slightly from 2018 based on a small initial sample from only a few days of data," the tweet reads.

 

Early statistics from the IRS showed that the average refund amount through Feb. 1 was $1,865 — down 8.4 percent compared to the same period last year.

Tax filing season started Jan. 28 and ends in April. This year's filing is being closely watched because tax filings will reflect the first full year of the changes made in the GOP's 2017 tax overhaul. 

This year's tax filing season also began just days after the conclusion of a 35-day federal government shutdown, which left the IRS without funding, leaving many of its employees furloughed or working without pay.

In 2018, the average tax refund during the first week of the filing season was $2,035, and the filing season began at roughly the same time as it did this year. In 2017, when the filing season started one week earlier than in 2019, the average refund in the first week was $1,866.

The number of taxpayers submitting returns in the first week fluctuated from 2017 to 2019.

Naomi Jagoda contributed.