Tax refunds up 10% due to stimulus

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- White House officials said Monday that tax credits launched under last year's economic recovery bill have boosted the average refund by nearly 10% from the previous year.

The average tax refund for 2009 has reached $3,036, up $266 from a year ago, according to early data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Administration officials said the increase is largely due to tax benefits available under the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The extra cash is a boon for the middle class and provides an important stimulus for the economy, officials said.

"The Recovery Act is a major factor behind these larger, record refunds," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "About half of all Americans haven't filed their taxes yet, so we urge them to look carefully at these Recovery provisions."

Under the Recovery Act, which was implemented last year to combat the economic crisis, taxpayers can take advantage of over a dozen tax benefits.

Among the benefits are the making work pay credit, worth up to $800 for married couples filing jointly, the $8,000 first-time home buyer credit, and sales tax deductions on new car purchases.

In addition, the act includes credits for homeowners that make their homes more energy efficient. It also expanded eligibility for a $2,500 tax credit on college expenses and made the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits tax free.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said bigger refunds will help working families recover from one of the worst recessions on record and urged Americans to take full advantage of the credits.

"These Recovery Act tax credits not only provide some needed relief for working Americans, but also help them invest in their families' futures," Biden said.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner added that the nearly $300 billion in tax benefits will help the economy recover by encouraging Americans to spend, which will help business and ultimately stimulates job growth.

"The more that individuals and families take advantage of these benefits, the more money is pushed back into the economy, helping all Americans as we grow our way out of this crisis," Geithner said.

However, some critics argue that the bigger tax refunds could be due to factors other than the Recovery Act credits, including a larger number of Americans withholding more last year due to unemployment or other economic hardships.

Individuals who work into the year and get laid off typically over-withheld while they are working, said J.D. Foster, a senior fellow specializing in fiscal policy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group. That over-withholding can lead to larger refunds.

"There are many reasons for refunds to be up and no reason at this point to believe the tax credits from the Recovery Act were a particularly important explanation," Foster said.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,810.06 91.06 0.51%
Nasdaq 4,712.97 11.10 0.24%
S&P 500 2,063.50 10.75 0.52%
Treasuries 2.32 -0.02 -0.86%
Data as of Nov 23
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.12 0.12 0.71%
Kinder Morgan Inc 39.75 -0.17 -0.43%
Apple Inc 116.47 0.16 0.14%
Intel Corp 35.59 -0.36 -1.00%
Microsoft Corp 47.98 -0.72 -1.48%
Data as of Nov 21

Sections

This arrangement, announced Friday, illustrates how the lines have blurred between traditional TV networks and newfangled options like Netflix. More

China's central bank surprised investors last week with its first rate cut in more than two years. But get used to that -- analysts say more cuts are in the pipeline. More

Regin is malware has been lurking in computers for as long as six years, according to Symantec. But experts don't know much about where it is from, what it does and who has been targeted. More

Obama doesn't have the authority to create a startup visa, but part of his reform announcement could include a workaround for entrepreneurs: 'parole status.' More

Nearly half of all Americans say there's a chance they'll have to work during a holiday between Thanksgiving and New Year's, according to a new poll. And one in four say they'll have to work whether they want to or not. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.