Tax season trends: How do you compare to other filers?

As the filing deadline looms, some Americans may be rushing to get their documents into the IRS before April 15.

There has been heightened uncertainty this tax season in particular, since individuals are filing under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for the first time. Confusion was also exacerbated by a prolonged partial government shutdown that ended just before tax season began.

To get a better sense of how the season is going so far for taxpayers, NerdWallet conducted a survey between Feb. 27 and March 1 to assess both filer behavior and refund/obligation trends. Here’s a look at what Americans are saying about their experiences so far this year:

More people owe money

Nearly one in five, or 18 percent, of Americans owed additional money to cover their 2018 tax bill – 32 percent of whom said they received a refund last year.

Overall, NerdWallet predicts as many as 7.9 million people who were given a refund last year could get a bill this year.

The average tax obligation, according to the study, is $2,119.

As previously reported by FOX Business, the Trump administration expected fewer people to receive refunds this year after the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and new withholding tables. However, the administration said most Americans are still expected to see a net tax benefit as a result of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“While it’s great to see a majority of Americans have filed their taxes and many have been receiving their refunds quickly, there’s still some uncertainty,” NerdWallet tax specialist Andrea Coombes said. “Our study shows that taxpayers are facing surprises — both good and bad.”

Of those who had filed or prepared their returns, 60 percent were expecting or had received a refund.

Filed yet?

Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents had filed, or at least prepared, their 2018 returns as of March 1.

Millennials were the age group that were most likely to file on the early side, with nearly three-quarters having filed by March 1, compared with 53 percent of Generation Z, 57 percent of Generation X and 49 percent of Baby Boomers.

Six percent of people said they planned to wait until the last minute to file, due to the new tax law.


Of those who had received money back from the tax agency – the average refund amount was $2,697 – much more than individuals surveyed earlier in the season were expecting ($1,861).

Millennials received the largest refund, with averages around $3,013.

Those totals were $2,944 for Gen X and $1,943 for Baby Boomers.

Thirty-five percent of people said their refund was smaller than the amount they had received last year, but 32 percent said it was larger. About 27 percent of people say it should be in line with last year.

Only 3 percent of people who owed money last year said they will get a refund this season.

According to the IRS, the average refund was about $2,957 as of March 15 – roughly in line with last year’s averages.


Wait times

While a record-long partial government shut down in the weeks leading up to the start of this year’s filing season caused concerns that refunds could be delayed, 41 percent of people said they received their refunds in two weeks or less.

About 30 percent of people waited more than two weeks.

Of those who had longer wait times, many were parents with children under the age of 18. That trend might be at least partially attributable to the statutory refund delay associated with the Additional Child Tax Credit.