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Tax Season 2023: The IRS Has Already Issued More Than $87 Billion in Refunds This Year

More than 27 million Americans have received a refund as of Feb. 17, according to the IRS.

Dan Avery Former Writer
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
Expertise Personal finance, government and policy, consumer affairs
Dan Avery
3 min read
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The IRS says it has issued $87.2 billion in refunds as of Feb. 17, 2023.

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Tax season started a little over a month ago and, while the IRS is still going strong, the pace of returns and refunds is slowing. 

The agency has processed close to 37 million 2022 federal income tax returns since Feb. 17, about 10% more returns than it completed this time last year. One week earlier, though, on Feb. 10, the agency was 13.6% ahead of last year's pace. 
There were even more early filers than usual this year because of the expiration of the expanded tax credit and other benefits from 2021, according to Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt.

"People are counting on their refund even more and are filing earlier to get it faster," Steber said.  

Now that we've moved further into the tax season, the supersized rush is abating. As of Feb. 10, the IRS received 9.1% more returns than last year. Now it's just 2.6% more.

Here's how the IRS is doing so far in tax season 2023.

For more on taxes, find out about all the tax breaks available to homeowners, and learn about the changes to the child tax credit.

More returns processed

As of Feb. 17, the IRS has processed 36.7 million federal income tax returns, a 9.9% increase from the 33.5 million it got through this time last year. 
The IRS' funding was beefed up by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which added nearly $80 billion to its coffers over the next 10 years. Some of that has already gone toward enhancing technology and hiring more customer service representatives.

More refunds issued

The IRS has issued 27.8 million refunds to date this year, about 26% more than the 22 million sent in 2022. (The agency struggled to pay timely refunds last year.) 

On Feb. 10, the IRS was 48.4% ahead of where it was last year in sending out refunds.

Refunds for the tax year 2022 currently stand at $87.2 billion -- or 11.8% more money than this time last year. 
On Feb. 10, the IRS had sent out 27.6% more in refunds than it did the same week last year.
Read on: How to Track Your IRS Refund

Smaller checks

Due to the end of the expanded child tax credit and other enhanced tax breaks, the average refund has declined by 11.2%, or about $396, from 2022.

On the plus side, refunds are getting bigger as the tax season goes on: On Feb. 10, the average amount the federal government gave taxpayers back was only $1,997. By Feb. 17, it was up to $3,140.

And the number of direct deposit refunds is up, too -- by more than 20% -- from 21.8 million in 2022 to 26.3 million in 2023.
Direct deposit payments are typically received within three weeks, compared with six to eight weeks for paper checks.

Digital drill-down 

The IRS says e-filing is the easiest way to ensure your return and any refund are processed promptly. Over 97% of the 36.9 million tax returns submitted so far in 2023 have been filed electronically. About 41% of those were prepared by tax professionals, the remainder were self-prepared.

Visits to the IRS website, meanwhile, have declined 14.3% this season.

Read on: Why Your Tax Refund Could Be Smaller This Year