News & Resources

Market conditions drive consumers to spend tax refund on necessary expenses

Apr 24, 2012 Philip Burgess

Whether because of greater frugality or necessity, more Americans plan to spend their tax refund on bills and household expenses, according to a survey released this week by Cricket Communications. The findings bode well for debt collection agencies, as they may have an easier time recovering payments from a more fiscally responsible public. Half of respondents say they plan to spend the extra money on household expenses, significantly higher than vacations (15 percent), leisure activities (8 percent) and gifts (4 percent). More than three-quarters of surveyed Americans - 78 percent - said they intend to be "smarter" about how they spend their returns. More than half - 55 percent - are more likely to use refund dollars on practical "needs" instead of "wants." A separate PriceGrabber survey released Monday found 58 percent of surveyed consumers are expecting to receive a refund this year. Of those respondents, 27 percent expect to receive more money than they did last year, and 31 percent expect to receive the same amount. Twenty-seven percent expect to earn less, and 15 percent are unsure. "PriceGrabber continues to see a consumer appetite to shop this year, with electronic products topping the purchase wish list based on survey respondents planning to use their tax refund to shop," said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. Stretching tax refund dollars is a chief goals of consumers, even as debt levels continue to soar. Demand for student loans, in particular, have driven up consumer credit levels and led to increased demand for debt collection services. Last month, the U.S. government began hiring private debt collectors to recover billions of dollars in federal student loan dues. The PriceGrabber survey also found Americans are embracing electronic filing as their preferred reporting method this year. Eighty-five percent percent plan to use online services, compared to a mere 15 percent who intend to file their returns by mail. "While we have seen mobile device apps become more popular from a shopping-related standpoint, it seems that tax preparation apps are not as widely adopted yet among consumers," Jones added. "Our survey indicates that 88 percent of consumers do not plan to download a tax preparation app onto a mobile device in order to prepare their tax returns this year."