More Americans Will Shop With Tax Refunds

TV in cart

Being thrifty is getting a little dull, and a new survey from the National Retail Federation reports that more Americans are likely to splurge with this year's tax refunds.

Some 12.5% of those expecting a check from the IRS say they will treat themselves to a big purchase, such as a new TV, furniture or car, up from 11% last year. And 10% plan to use the money for vacation.

But for the most part, consumers will focus on practical financial goals, including paying down debt and beefing up savings. The Washington, D.C.-based trade association's annual survey, conducted by BIGresearch, reports that while a smaller percentage is expecting refunds -- 65.5% of taxpayers, compared with 68.4% last year -- 43.9% of those who are getting bucks back from the IRS say they plan to reduce family debt, down from 48% in 2009. Some 40% plan to save it, and 28.8% say they will use it on everyday expenses.



Among more affluent households (those with $50,000-plus in annual income), 70.9% are expecting money back. For this group, saving is the most likely use of funds, at 45.4% percent (versus 37.6% of those earning less than $50,000 annually.) Affluents are also less likely to go shopping for a major purchase (12.1% compared with 13.7% of the lower-earning group) but more likely to spend their return on a vacation (11.6% versus 9.2%.)

The survey, based on 8,560 adults, also finds that e-filing is still growing in popularity, with 54.4% filing online, compared with 50.1% back in 2007. About one-third uses computer software, 23.5% use an accountant, and 17.6% rely on tax preparation services. Almost 12% plan to ask a friend, spouse or other relative to do their taxes for them.

Any influx of spending money may be a boon for retailers, since shoppers have been focused on essentials since the recession started. And since 60.6% of Americans had their taxes done by the end of February, many of those refunds are returned already or are on the way. An additional 24.4% say they plan to file in March, with about 15% saying they will file in April.

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