IRS: More Americans received tax refunds in 2019, but checks were smaller

The first tax filing season under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is over, and the results show that slightly more Americans received tax refunds, but that the checks were smaller.

The average refund this year was $2,725, down $55 from last year, according to data released by the IRS that includes every return filed by the deadline.

IRS and U.S. Treasury officials anticipated that fewer people would receive refunds this year and that the amounts would be lower, but the refund trends turned out to be similar to last year.

After the new tax law took effect, IRS staffers tweaked the withholding calculations, the amount of money deducted for taxes from a person’s paycheck, to adjust for the new rules and to try to make it so that more Americans were “perfectly withheld,” meaning they would neither get a refund nor owe any money when they filed their tax returns. The IRS predicted that several million fewer people would get refunds, but that did not turn out to be the case.

It is unclear how many Americans received a significantly smaller refund this year compared with last. The IRS provides only the average refund, which is not enough information to know how many people might have been affected.

Some people mistakenly thought a smaller refund was a sign they did not get a tax cut.

The vast majority of Americans were expected to get a tax cut in the first year under the new law, according to independent groups like the Tax Policy Center and Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. About 65% of Americans were expected to get a tax cut, according to the TPC, with the middle-class filers getting about $1,000.

IRS data includes all returns filed by April 19 and indicates that more people filed their returns online this year and that slightly more people managed to file by the April 15 deadline.

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