This 2019 Tax Refund Update Brings Some Good News, Finally

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Here's some good news about this year's tax refund: According to the latest data from the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday, the average tax refund for 2019 is slightly higher than last year. The Hill reported that it's a 1.3 percent increase, meaning that the average refund through Feb. 22 was $3,143 while the average refund through Feb. 23 2018 was $3,103. That's $40, to be precise.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin touted the increase on CNBC, "People have been very focused on tax refunds. Tax refunds are up 17 percent week over week. That basically gets us to the same level as last year." Prior to the newest data findings, tax refunds through Feb. 15 were 16 percent lower than the 2018 tax refund around the same time.

"I would emphasize that even if people had perfectly done their withholding — withholding is complicated and I encourage people to go to the withholding calculator — people really should be focused on the fact they're paying lower taxes," Mnuchin told CNBC. "Those lower taxes is money going back into the economy, and that's why we have the economic growth we do."

Tax refunds have been getting a lot of attention this year as Americans try to make sense of President Trump's 2017 tax law. A spokesperson for the Treasury Department told CNN in early February, "Most people are seeing the benefits of the tax cut in larger paychecks throughout the year, instead of tax refunds that are the result of people overpaying the government."

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Tax refunds have caused a lot of stress among Americans in the past few weeks. As the tax season drags on, many have wondered if they will receive a tax refund, get a lower one this year, or end up paying money to the IRS. On Twitter, social media users expressed their frustration and disappointment about their decreased tax refunds, taking note of the current administration's tax law.

The venting was expected. American Institute of CPAs' Edward Karl explained to Politico, "There are going to be a lot of unhappy people over the next month. Taxpayers want a large refund."

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Joseph Rosenberg, who works as a senior research associate for the non-partisan think tank Tax Policy Center, told Mother Jones about the two effects of Trump's 2017 tax law.

"The tax laws that were passed in 2017 have really changed people’s tax situations," Rosenberg told Mother Jones. "So there are two things going on. One, they’re filing under the new tax laws and that will change from prior years. But also there was a change in withholding amounts put in place last year in response to the tax cuts. The net of those two effects is going to show up in refunds."

While the 1.3 percent increase in tax refunds may be good news for many American taxpayers, the Treasury Department cautioned to The Hill that IRS' filing data may fluctuate in the coming weeks. If you want to stay on top of the updates, it won't hurt to keep an eye on IRS' media vertical.