Tax Return Filings Still Lag, But Pros Hold 57% of Market

Chart of IRS filing data for the week ended Feb. 3, 2017
[Click for larger image]
Four days fewer in 2017 still skewing statistics.

The IRS continues to churn back tax returns nearly as quickly as it receives them, while the percentage that were self-prepared is tracking higher than the same point last year.

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With 20.18 million returns received as of Feb. 3, the latest data available, the agency had processed 19.97 million or 98.9 percent of them.

Both figures are down from the same time last year – by 24.3 percent for returns received and 23.6 percent for returns processed.

Calendar year-to-year comparisons remain challenging this early in the season because the 2016 totals include four additional days. However, the IRS reports an increase in returns received and accepted over 2016 when comparing the same number of filing days.

E-filing accounts for 19.4 million of the returns filed, or 96.2 percent. E-filings to date are down 24.4 percent from last year’s 25.66 million.

Tax professionals have filed 7.8 million returns, down 29.2 percent, while self-prepared returns number 11.6 million, down 20.7 percent.

More telling is the percentage of self-preparers vs. pros. In 2017, 59.8 percent of the filings have been self-prepared. In 2016, that figure was 57 percent. Still it’s a huge leap forward from last week, the first reports of 2017, when the tally was a meager 38 percent.

Visits to IRS.gov stand at 71.45 million, down 26.7 percent.

Refund reporting remains problematic, with early refund numbers and dollar amounts affected by the new law requiring refunds involving the Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit to be held until Feb. 15, and many taxpayers who claim these credits traditionally filing during the opening weeks.

The IRS has issued 6.59 million refunds totaling $13.15 billion, figures that are down 61.9 percent and 77.6 percent. The average refund is $1,994, down 41.1 percent from 2016’s $3,385.

Direct deposit refunds tell a nearly identical bleak tale, with 6.22 million refunds totaling $12.75 billion, down 62.4 percent and 77.6 percent respectively. The $2,050 average refund is down 40.6 percent from last year.

Direct deposit is making up 94.3 percent of refunds, while refunds received by direct deposit average 3 percent higher than refunds overall.

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