Survey: Consumers Will Not Be Spending Their Tax Refund Dollars at Retail This Year

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Leading market research firm ClickIQ conducted a recent consumer perception study to determine where tax refund dollars will go, only to find out that consumers are not in a spending mood. With nearly three quarters of American tax payers expecting a federal tax refund this year, nearly half of them plan to use some or all of the refund to pay down existing bills while 40% plan to put the money in savings or invest in stock. Only 16% of taxpayers intend to spend their refund on something special and of those, 28% plan to spend the money on a vacation, not at the retail stores.

ClickIQ, Inc.

Expecting consumers would be ready and willing to spend their refunds on something special after the long economic downturn, the study showed the opposite.

403 U.S. consumers were surveyed by market research firm ClickIQ to ask them about their 2011 federal income tax filings and what they plan to do with any refund they might receive. Expecting consumers would be ready and willing to spend their refunds on something special after the long economic downturn, the study showed the opposite. 70% of taxpayers expect a federal refund this year with 56% of them anticipating a refund greater than $1000. But according to the survey, a full 75% of those respondents will either use some or all of that money to pay down their bills or spend it on everyday expenses. Of the 16% that intend to spend their refund on something special, retailers will not see much of that money given that spending it on a vacation was the most common response. Out of the small group that will spend their money at retail, the majority of the money will go towards home improvement. Of interest in this regard is that 65% of taxpayers indicated that they plan their payroll tax withholdings so that they will receive a tax refund rather than break even at year-end even though the majority will be spending their refund on bills they incurred during the year.

Taking a deeper look at tax filing habits, the study shows that 61% of filers prepare their own taxes either by hand/paper or by using tax software rather than using a tax service. Approximately half (49%) itemize deductions instead of taking the standard deduction and 79% of all filers e-file their returns. Of the 67% of respondents that stated they are married, 94% file their taxes jointly. As would be expected, by the time this study closed on April 13, 2012, 85% had already filed their 2011 federal tax returns.

When respondents were asked if they have a retirement account/s and if they contributed to those accounts this year, only 65% indicated they even have an account and of those, 24% said they contributed the maximum amount allowed while 21% stated that they could not afford to contribute any this year.


Data was collected in an online survey from 403 of ClickIQ’s U.S. consumer panel members from April 11, 2012 through April 13, 2012. Target respondents were qualified by stating that they have already or will file 2011 federal tax returns. The survey results have a margin of error of +/-5% at a 95% confidence level.

About ClickIQ

ClickIQ, Inc., based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is an award-winning market research firm that employs fully integrated online management tools, a proprietary consumer panel, and skilled market research analysts to deliver quantitative consumer and shopper insights to some of the best known and most respected companies across the U.S.

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Robert Boese
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