April 17 isn't too far away, and as tax preparers prepare to plunge into the home stretch, here's a review of how tax season has gone so far, with data from the IRS up to March 31.
After a slight delay at the start of tax season, the total number of returns received each week in 2018 is keeping pace with 2017.
A step behind
While the number of returns received is matching 2017, the number of returns processed by the IRS is slightly behind, due in part, no doubt, to legally mandated delays in processing certain refundable credits, and delays on extender-related benefits associated with the Bipartisan Budget Act that passed on Feb. 9.
A normal gap
As usual, there's a gap between how many returns the IRS receives and how many it processes -- as of March 31, a relatively normal 93 percent had been processed, with the remainder held for math errors, security concerns, audits and other reasons.
The overwhelming choice
Electronic filing is by far the most common way to file a tax return, accounting for 87 million returns, or roughly 93 percent of all submissions.
700,000 new e-filings
Roughly a million more taxpayers e-filed their taxes themselves up to March 31, 2018 -- but the growth didn't come at much expense for e-filing by tax pros, which was off by less than 300,000 returns by the same point.
Tax pros still out front
Despite the growth in returns e-filed by individuals, professional tax preparers still account for the majority of e-filings.
Off by less than a million
Despite congressionally mandated delays for refundable tax credits, the IRS is not far off the number of refunds it issued for the same period last year.
The average refund
While refunds may be just a hair slower coming this year, they're averaging the same size as last year -- with those being delivered by direct deposit still worth roughly $100 more.
A trusted source
Tax preparers are reporting that clients have lots of questions this year -- so it's no surprise that visits to the IRS website are up significantly over last year, particularly since a recent poll showed that taxpayers ranked it the No. 1 most valuable source of tax information and advice, just slightly ahead of tax pros. (See "What taxpayers really think.")