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Tax Season 2024: IRS Has Issued $66.9B in Tax Refunds in Third Week of Filing

 Tax Season 2024: IRS Has Issued $66.9B in Tax Refunds in Third Week of Filing

The 2024 tax season is three weeks old, having kicked off on Jan. 29, and the amount of tax refund money the IRS has sent is picking up, while the total number of refunds sent so far in 2024 is lagging the same period in 2023.

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Taxpayers can normally expect to receive a refund within 21 days if they file electronically and choose direct deposit, the IRS said. But by Feb. 16, three weeks into tax filing season, the IRS had issued more than 20.8 million refunds. By comparison, the IRS had sent out over 27.7 million refunds by Feb. 17, 2023. Tax season last year started six days earlier, however, on Jan. 23, so the IRS had nearly a week longer to receive and process tax returns and send refunds.

This story is part of Taxes 2024, CNET’s coverage of the best tax software, tax tips and everything else you need to file your return and track your refund.

Here’s how the IRS is doing this year. For more on taxes, check out our essential 2024 tax filing cheat sheet, how to track your refund with the IRS and the best tax software for 2024.

How many tax returns has the IRS processed so far in 2024? 

As of Feb. 16, the IRS said it had processed 34.5 million federal income tax returns, down by 6% from the 36.7 million it got through this time last year. With tax season starting earlier in 2023 — Jan. 23 versus Jan. 29 — filers had six more days last year to send in their tax returns.

The IRS had also received 34.7 million returns by Feb. 16, down just 5.7% from the 36.8 million it received by Feb. 17, 2023.

Of the 34.5 million returns received so far, just over 34 million of those were filed electronically, the IRS said — 14.1 million from tax preparers and another 19.9 million from self-preparers.

How many tax refunds has the IRS issued so far? 

The IRS has issued more than 20.8 million refunds as of Feb. 16, down by 24.8% from the 27.7 million it had sent out by Feb. 17, 2023. 

This week, the IRS included a note on the amount of refunds with this week’s recap of filing statistics, reading that the amount of “total refunds issued represent returns received and processed in 2024 – the current year only. The number of direct deposit refunds represent returns received in the current and prior year but processed in 2024.” CNET has reached out to the IRS for clarification on this note, and what it means for 2024’s filing stats. 

In the first three weeks of this tax year, the IRS refunded $66.9 billion — down by 23.3% from the $87.2 billion sent out by Feb. 17 last year. Again, the 2023 tax season began six days earlier.

How do 2024’s tax refunds stack up to 2023’s so far?

The average refund size is up by 2.1%, from $3,140 for 2023’s tax season through Feb. 17, to $3,207 for this season through Feb. 16.

While the average refund size is up so far compared to the same time last year, the IRS told CNET that making year-to-date comparisons can be tricky because of how much earlier it started last year. The agency did say the 2024 tax season is off to a strong start, with all systems running well.

Of those who received refunds, 20.5 million chose direct deposit, and their refund was $3,265. By comparison, for the same time period last year, 26.3 million direct depositors had already received their return, which averaged $3,241.

For more, here are the dates you need to know to get you through this tax season. For more on taxes, here’s how to set up an account on the IRS website and what to know about this year’s child tax credit.

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