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Americans Plan to Spend a Little, Save a Little With Tax Refunds This Year, According to NRF Survey

For Immediate Release
Kathy Grannis (202) 783-7971

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Americans Plan to Spend a Little, Save a Little With Tax Refunds This Year, According to NRF Survey

Washington, February 22, 2011 – With signs of an improving economy, many Americans are now keen to use their tax refunds to treat themselves or their families to a major purchase such as a new television or furniture. According to NRF’s 2011 Tax Returns Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, 13.2 percent of Americans will spend their refund on a big ticket item, up from 12.5 percent last year.  

But with the economy also serving as a reminder that it’s best to be financially prepared for the worst, more people will also put their refunds away for a rainy day (42.1% vs. 40.3 percent in 2010). 

“Despite the difficult unemployment situation across the country, Americans receiving a tax refund this year seem eager to plough this money back into the economy,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.  “With sales momentum continuing to build, NRF is becoming more bullish about the economic recovery.”

While some will toss frugality out the window, there are still 41.9 percent of consumers who plan to pay down debt. Other ways consumers will use their refunds include vacation (11.9%), and everyday expenses (29.7%). Unsurprisingly, the number of people who file their taxes online continues to increase. This year, 57.6 percent of U.S. taxpayers will file their taxes online, up from just 50.1 percent in 2007.

Additionally, 35.2 percent will prepare their taxes using computer software, 21.5 percent will use an accountant, 19.3 percent will use a tax preparation service, 10.9 percent will have a friend, spouse or other relative prepare their taxes for them and 13.2 percent will prepare their taxes by hand.  

“Many Americans have spent the last few years paying down debt with their tax refunds, but for some, it’s the perfect time to buy something nice for a change,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “Others are also looking to the future though, by putting their ‘free money’ in a savings account, with the recession serving as a perfect reminder of the need to be prepared.”

According to the survey, 63.9 percent of Americans will have filed their taxes by the end of February, meaning that many tax returns have already been received or are on the way. An additional 21.1 percent will file in March and 15.0 percent will wait until the last minute and file in April.  

Two-thirds (66.2%) of tax payers are expecting a refund this year, up from 65.5 percent last year, but down from the percentage expecting a refund in 2009 (68.4%). 

About the Survey

The NRF 2011 Tax Returns Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to tax returns. The poll of 8,273 consumers was conducted from February 1-8, 2011. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

® consumer intelligence provides analysis of behavior in areas of products and services, retail, financial services, automotive and media. The BIGresearch Consumer Intentions and Actions® Survey (CIA™) of 8,000+ respondents is conducted monthly and the Simultaneous Media Usage® Survey (SIMM®) of 15,000+ respondents is conducted semi-annually.

As the world's largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, the National Retail Federation's global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the U.S. and more than 45 countries abroad. In the U.S., NRF represents the breadth and diversity of an industry with more than 1.6 million American companies that employ nearly 25 million workers and generated 2010 sales of $2.4 trillion. www.nrf.com