NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- As tax season kicks into gear, the Internal Revenue Service is doling out refunds averaging more than $3,000 so far this year.
Nearly 52 million Americans have already filed their taxes, with more than 45 million of those taxpayers collecting refunds, according to the latest filing statistics from the IRS.
The average refund has been $3,129 so far, while direct deposit refunds are averaging $3,257.
However, the average usually declines as tax season progresses because people getting the biggest refunds typically file their taxes the fastest. Last year, the average refund was closer to $3,000.
"A lot of times people have their withholding taxes artificially high during the year and plan for this large refund to fund a vacation or car or something like that," said Robert Willens, a professor of taxation at Columbia Business School and president of a tax consulting firm. "Even though it's not a good economic thing to do since they're essentially making an interest-free loan to the government."
The number of taxpayers who filed their returns online has risen more than 2%, to nearly 47 million. About 28 million of these filers had their taxes prepared by professionals this year -- little changed from last year.
But an increasing number of people are choosing to prepare their own returns. In fact, the number of people self-preparing their taxes online has jumped 6% from the same period last year, to nearly 19 million.
"This is just part and parcel of the technology revolution," said Willens. "You can now take advantage of programs that take the mystery out of doing your taxes, so people are feeling that there's less need to hire an outside party, recognizing that the outside party will probably use the same programs."
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