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On the radar: IRS filing season statistics show 2019 nearly caught up to 2018 in April 5 week

IRS filing season statistics showed that the pace of filings received and returns processed have nearly caught up to the comparable week in 2018. As of April 5, the number of returns received was 103,460,000, down a scant 0.3% from the April 6, 2018 week. Returns processed were down 0.5% at 100,572,000 in the week. Returns filed electronically up 1.0% from the year-ago week at 96,844,000.

The average size of a refund tends to decrease over the filing season. The first few weeks can be volatile, but starting late in February and early in March, the pattern is consistent. Those expecting a refund will file earlier and those expecting a larger refund tend to be among the earliest to file. The average size of a refund in the first week of this year’s filing season was $1,865 and rose to a peak of $3,143 in the fourth week. It has since steadily declined to $2,833 in the tenth week.

In the April 5 week, the number of refunds issued were down 1.5% from the comparable week last year and the average size of a refund is down 1.1%. The number of refunds issued by direct deposit was up 1.3% compared to a year-ago, although at this stage the size of the refunds is down 1.7% to $2,961.

In spite of registering a peak of $3,143 in the fourth week of the filing season that was the highest since $3,149 in the fourth week of 2010, the size of tax refunds has fallen off and refunds appear to be going to fewer filers. Consumer spending often gets a boost in the first quarter as tax refunds make their way into the retail sector. However, it could be smaller in 2019. April may also see less benefit in consumer spending with fewer and smaller refunds arriving.

Over the years taxpayers and tax preparers have steadily increased the share of returns filed electronically as more efficient and accurate, and ensuring quicker processing — especially when a refund is expected. Paper filings are by now the exception.

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