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Average Tax Refund Inching Higher: IRS Commissioner

After a slow start, the average income tax refund has rebounded and is now pretty close to the average refund from last year, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service told Congress yesterday.

Through March 22, the average income tax refund this year was $2,833, compared with $2,864 a year ago, Charles Rettig testified during a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee. There were some concerns earlier in the tax filing season when the IRS reported that the average refund was down 8% on a year-over-year basis.

So far, the IRS has processed 65 million tax returns and have issued refunds in excess of $190 billion, Rettig said. Fewer people are expected to receive a refund this year, according to the Treasury Department, largely due to changes in the tax code.

Individuals often use the proceeds from their tax returns to repay unpaid debts and companies in the credit and collection space ramp up their efforts to get in touch with individuals during tax season for that purpose. Income tax returns for 2018 are due to be filed with the IRS by Monday, April 15.

Rettig, who was named head of the IRS last year, said that one of the agency’s primary goals is updating its hardware and software. Some of the code used at the IRS dates back to the Kennedy administration, Rettig said during yesterday’s hearing.

The House of Representatives earlier this week passed a bill that would overhaul parts of the IRS, including how it administers its private collection agency program where unpaid tax debts are placed with one of four outside debt collectors. A similar bill, with bipartisan support, had already been introduced in the Senate.

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