NFCC® Online Poll Reveals How Taxpayers Plan to Use Their Refunds

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More than half of all poll respondents (68%) would use an income tax refund to repay debt this year.

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These poll results indicate that debt is still getting in the way of personal savings for many Americans.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) February online poll revealed that most taxpayers (68%) would prefer to pay down their debt with a tax refund this year instead of growing their personal savings.

“These poll results indicate that debt is still getting in the way of personal savings for many Americans,” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC.

While there are a number of good reasons to become less dependent on tax refunds, it is wise to have a plan ready in case a check from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) arrives this year. In 2014, the average tax refund for individual taxpayers was $3,034 according to the IRS. Compare that to the average credit card debt of $5,047 for adult consumers with credit cards in the previous year, according to a report by CreditCards.com. If the average refund amount were entirely committed to the repayment of the average credit card debt, it could pay it down by more than half.

The NFCC encourages people to consider the following tips when deciding how to repay debt with their tax refund:

  • If the debt is costing more than what is being earned from interest on savings, debt repayment should be the top priority.
  • If committing the entire tax refund to repay a debt does not completely erase the balance owed, a plan should be in place to accelerate the payoff of the remaining balance.
  • If using the refund to settle a debt for less than the balance owed, be prepared to pay income tax on the amount forgiven by the creditor.
  • To pay less interest over time, focus on eliminating the higher interest debts first.
  • Once a balance is repaid, avoid replacing it with new debt.

“The most important thing to consider is the impact that debt is having on the quality of life,” continued McClary. “Being in a position where savings has to be put on hold while debt takes center stage is not where consumers should be. Placing debt repayment on a faster track while reducing reliance on credit cards and loans will bring people closer to resuming progress toward reaching their personal financial goals.”

For help setting financial goals that include debt repayment and savings, reach out to an NFCC member agency to learn more about the Sharpen Your Financial Focus program. To contact the nearest financial counseling center, dial (855) 374-2773, or visit http://www.SharpenToday.org or http://www.agudicehoy.org.

The NFCC February poll question and results are as follows:

"What would you do with a tax refund this year?"

1.    "I would use the money to pay down debt" 68%
2.    "I would use the money for basic necessities" 15%
3.    "I would use the money to grow my savings" 11%
4.    "I don’t know how I would use the money" 4%
5.    "I would use the money to have fun shopping or take a vacation" 2%

Note: The NFCC’s February Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC website (http://www.DebtAdvice.org) from February 1 – 28, 2015, and was answered by 1,121 individuals.

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The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help millions of consumers through more than 600 community-based offices nationwide. For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC Member, call (800) 388-2227, (en Español (800) 682-9832) or visit http://www.nfcc.org. Visit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on Twitter: twitter.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on YouTube: http://www.YouTube.com/NFCC09 and our blog: http://financialeducation.nfcc.org/.

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