Average tax refund down 2 percent in first year of Trump tax law

Average tax refund down 2 percent in first year of Trump tax law
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The average refund amount through the end of the first tax-filing season under President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE's tax law was down 2 percent, but more taxpayers have received refunds so far this year, according to data the IRS released Wednesday.

The average refund through April 19 was $2,725, compared to an average refund of $2,780 through April 20, 2018. The percentage of processed tax returns receiving refunds was 73.2 percent, the IRS said, about the same as the 73.1 percent seen through a similar period last year.

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About 300,000 more refunds have been issued through April 19 than had been at a similar point last year, and about 300,000 more returns have been processed. 

Through Friday, the IRS received about 137.2 million returns, and had processed about 130.8 million of them. The agency is expected to release several more batches of weekly filing-season statistics in the coming weeks, as it processes more returns.

The filing due date this year was April 15 in most states. Last year, the deadline was originally April 17, but the IRS granted people an additional day to file their returns after a systems failure.

Tax returns and refunds have received increased attention this year, the first time that people are filing returns that reflect the GOP's 2017 tax reform law. It's also the first time people are filing tax returns that reflect changes to withholding from paychecks made in light of new tax law.

IRS statistics from the first few weeks of the filing season showed a significant drop in the average refund size, leading Democrats to step up their attacks on Trump's law. But as the weeks went on, refund data started to look comparable to figures from last year.

Tax preparers said that changes in refund sizes depended on individuals' personal situations, so some taxpayers may have received bigger refunds this year while others who typically receive refunds may have had a balance due to the IRS.

People may have gotten a tax cut even if they got a smaller refund. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center estimated that about 65 percent of taxpayers got a tax cut from the individual provisions in Trump's law, and about 6 percent got a tax increase. But people often pay close attention to their refunds because they use them to pay off debts and make major purchases.

Throughout much of the filing season, the number of returns filed was also down compared to similar points last year, but the numbers caught up as the filing deadline approached. Tax preparers said that people may have taken longer to file their returns this year because they wanted to make sure they understood how they were affected by the new tax law.