Why Your Tax Refund Could Be Bigger This Year

Expanded credits and stimulus checks are boosting some tax refunds this year. But if you get a big refund, consider investing it.

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At a time when many Americans are paying more for everything from gas to ground beef, tax refunds will provide much-needed cash for many families. And this year, those refunds could be particularly generous.

Through March 25, the average federal tax refund was $3,337, up 12.8% from the same period last year, according to the IRS. In 2021, the average refund was $2,959 by the same date.

People who expect a big refund tend to file early, so the average for the 2022 tax season may be lower. Still, there are several reasons many taxpayers could get a larger refund this year. Taxpayers who were eligible for a third Economic Impact Payment and didn't receive a check, or received less than the full amount, will have the opportunity to claim the recovery rebate credit when they file their 2021 tax return. The credit is worth up to $1,400. Likewise, taxpayers who were eligible for the expanded child tax credit, worth up to $3,600 in 2021, will have an opportunity to claim it when they file their 2021 tax return.

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The IRS sent out advance child tax credits in six monthly payments last year, but not everyone who was eligible for the payments received them. If you had a newborn last year, for example, you didn't receive the advance credits because the IRS didn't have a record of the addition to your family. But when you file your 2021 tax return, you'll be able to claim the credit.

Young adults may also receive a larger-than-expected refund this year because of a provision in the American Rescue Plan that expanded the earned income tax credit, which is designed to help low- and moderate-income workers. The legislation expanded eligibility for the credit to include workers between age 19 and 24 who don't have children.

Investing Your Tax Refund

Nearly 60% of taxpayers expect to receive a refund this year. If you're interested in investing all or part of your money, many brokerage firms will allow you to open an account for less than $500, and some have no minimum requirements. Coinbase, an online platform for cryptocurrency investors, says taxpayers who file their returns using TurboTax can have their refunds converted into Bitcoin, Ethereum or one of the other cryptocurrencies the company supports.

Cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile. Risk-averse investors may want to invest their refunds in Series I bonds. I bonds issued from November 2021 through April 2022 yield a composite rate of 7.12%. You can buy up to $10,000 each year in electronic I bonds and apply your tax refund to purchase up to $5,000 in paper bonds.

Finally, although it's nice to get a check from the IRS, there are more-effective ways to use your money than giving the government an interest-free loan. The IRS offers a tool on its website that you can use to adjust your withholding.

Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.