Most Americans don't plan to hold onto their tax returns for very long. Thirty-five percent of respondents in a new survey say they plan to spend all or part of their tax refunds this year.
Overall, 85 percent of Americans expect to get a tax return this year, researchers found. Projections from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimate the average return to be $2,803. Despite those spending plans, a majority of Americans do not calculate their refunds as a part of their annual budgets.
Among those looking to spend their returns, 30 percent plan to spend them on everyday expenses and necessities, while 23 percent plan to put the money toward vacations. Other popular purchases include clothing and electronics. Additionally, 22 percent of respondents say they plan to pay down debt with their tax refunds, while smaller numbers of people plan to save and invest their refunds.
That spending comes in the midst of declining take-home pay after Congress eliminated the payroll tax holiday. Thirty percent of people in the survey say they did not know that their take-home pay had declined. At the same time, 44 percent of respondents say they don't plan to change their spending habits in response to the pay declines.
Tax time also brings anxiety for most Americans. Nineteen percent of the survey's respondents say they worry about owing taxes, while 18 percent say they are concerned about not getting a refund in the amount they expected. However, just 8 percent of respondents fear being audited.
"At a time when people are seeing smaller paychecks, now more than ever they should take a step back, evaluate their financial goals and consider saving their tax refund," said Mickey Konson, managing vice president for retail banking at Capital One Bank, which conducted the research.
"People tend to think of their tax refund as free money or an annual bonus, which makes it very tempting to spend it right away. But remember, that refund is your own money, without added interest. Tax season is a great time to plan ahead, with an eye toward your financial goals."
The research was based on the responses of more than 1,000 people.