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What Are You Using Your Tax Refund For?

Jackson Hewitt


Published on: January 15, 2019

For many Americans, getting a long-awaited tax refund can be the biggest, most significant financial transaction of the year – and many taxpayers plan on putting theirs to good use. According to a recent survey, a sizable portion of taxpayers are planning on using their tax refunds to pay off holiday bills. 

But that’s not all: The survey revealed some telling information about which taxpayers are using their refunds for this purpose, as well as a shocking statistic about something that affects all working taxpayers.

In a Jackson Hewitt® poll of taxpayers in all age groups, 41% of respondents stated that they planned on using their refunds to pay off debt accrued from around the holidays. This finding represents a big jump from last year, when only 31% of taxpayers surveyed by Jackson Hewitt said they planned on using their refunds to pay down holiday debt.

In the recent survey, over half the respondents who said they plan on using their refunds to pay off bills from around the holidays were single, unmarried, and not living with a partner.

Interestingly enough, the same survey revealed that 63% of respondents in the Generation Z age group – or those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s – were planning on using their refunds to manage holiday debt. Thirty-nine percent of married Gen Z respondents and 35% of cohabitating Gen Z respondents were part of this larger statistic. By proportion, out of all the responding groups, more people in Generation Z harbor this holiday-debt payoff plan than in any other group.

The same survey asked several other pointed questions about people’s taxes, their tax refunds, and their potential tax liability. The survey reported that 62.8% of respondents expect at least a $1,000 refund from the government this year, while about 37% think they will owe taxes.

The survey did, however, indicate some cause for alarm: 72% of people who responded either have not updated their tax withholdings or did not know if their withholdings were updated by themselves or their employer in 2018. When this figure was broken down, it was reported that 59.2% of respondents have not updated their withholdings, and 12.98% did not know whether their withholdings were updated.

Members of Generation X (those born from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s) and the Baby Boomer generation (those born from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s) were the least likely age group to update their withholdings, despite making more money on average than millennials (those born from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s) or Generation Z.

That 72% of respondents to the survey didn’t know what state their withholdings were in, or knew they hadn’t been updated, is an important figure to note. Not being aware of what you’re withholding from your paycheck each week – or what you’re paying the government in taxes – could mean a big surprise for you come tax time. And it might not be a pleasant surprise; you could end up owing the IRS money that you don’t have.

It’s important to update your withholdings every year, or at the very least, to know how much you’re withholding – especially when the tax laws change, as was the case with the major tax reform bill that was passed in 2017. By planning ahead and keeping track of your withholdings, you can make sure your tax liability is covered and still allow for a refund – which could definitely come in handy if, like many Americans and many Jackson Hewitt survey respondents, you plan on spending big during the holidays and using your refund to cover your bill.

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