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Average tax refund is now slightly higher than last year

Why your tax refund might be smaller this year
Why your tax refund might be smaller this year 01:34

Americans' tax refunds are no longer shrinking. The latest data released by the Internal Revenue Service show that the average tax refund issued through the third week of February was $3,143. That's slightly higher than the average refund at this time last year, which was $3,103.

Prior to this week, tax refund amounts were down significantly from 2018, leading to alarm on social media and criticism of the 2017 tax cuts, and prompting the Treasury to say "comparing weekly data is misleading and confusing."

The number of Americans receiving tax refunds is lower than last year by about 2 million, however.

Economists are wary of putting too much stock in the weekly figures, which are liable to swing dramatically. So far, only one-third of the taxpayers expected to file returns this year have done so. That leaves a lot of room for change, especially since, as many tax pros say, people who file taxes later tend not to receive refunds. 

"People who file early tend to be the ones expecting refunds, while the ones who owe tend to wait until later," Jonathan Medows, a CPA in New York, told CBS News.

He added: "I wouldn't rush to file this year. If you're using software, take your time, sit back, just because a few things [in the latest software] might be not dry yet." 

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