Consumers Plan to Save, Pay Debt with Tax Refunds

March 1, 2011

nationalretailfederation-spending-plans-for-tax-return.gifThe two most popular plans US consumers have for their tax refunds this year are putting the money into savings and using it to pay down debt, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) 2011 Tax Returns Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch. Approximately 42% of survey respondents say they will take each action with their 2011 tax refunds.

Slightly More Consumers Will Buy Big Ticket Item

According to survey results, 13.2% of consumers plan to use tax refund proceeds to purchase a big ticket item. This percentage, while still relatively small, is up almost 6% from 12.5% with the same plans in 2010.

It is also worth noting that the percentage planning to put refund money into savings has grown about 4% year-over-year, from 40.3% in 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage planning to pay down debt has slipped 4.5% from 43.9% in 2010.

Everyday Expenses Also Popular Option

The other leading option for tax refund dollars this year is putting them toward everyday expenses, with about 30% of consumers planning this use. That percentage is essentially flat from 2010.

In addition, smaller percentages of respondents have plans for their tax refunds including vacation (11%) and “other” (8%).

2/3 Expect Refund

nationalretailfederation-filing-date-for-tax-return-mar11.gifTwo-thirds (66.2%) of consumers expect a tax refund this year. That is up 1% from 65.5% last year but down about 3% from 68.4% in 2009. In addition, according to the survey, 63.9% of Americans will have filed their taxes by the end of February 2011, meaning that many tax returns have already been received or are on the way. An additional 21.1% will file in March and 15% will wait until the last minute and file in April.

Almost 6 in 10 File Online

national-retail-federation-preparation-method-for-tax-return-mar11.gifUnsurprisingly, the number of people who file their taxes online continues to increase. This year, 57.6% of U.S. taxpayers will file their taxes online, up 15% from just 50.1% in 2007. In addition, 35.2% will prepare their taxes using computer software, 21.5% will use an accountant, 19.3% will use a tax preparation service, 10.9% will have a friend, spouse or other relative prepare their taxes for them and 13.2% will prepare their taxes by hand.

Americans Go Online for Tax Info

Tax sites experienced a strong surge of US activity in January 2011 as tax prep season officially commenced, according to recent comScore Media Metrix data. The category attracted 26.8 million visitors in January 2011, representing a 345% increase from December 2010.

Tax category site leaders such as TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxACT all achieved triple-digit gains during the month.

About the Data: The NRF 2011 Tax Returns Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to tax returns. The poll of 8,273 consumers was conducted from February 1-8, 2011.

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