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Leah Michael knew exactly what she'd do with her tax return this year.
A portion of the money would pay for school district taxes, another would go toward books for law school at the University of Toledo, and the rest would go straight to savings. The 25-year-old Napoleon resident said the $1,100 she got back in federal and state returns already was allocated in her mind before the check arrived.
"I'm a student and I work full time, but I want to have a nice cushion in there in case I need to take time off to do school work," she said of the $600 she put in her savings account.
Paying bills and building savings are the two most popular choices for how people will use a tax return this year, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation.
The February survey found that of those who expect a refund, 43.8 percent said they would save the money, and 39.4 percent said they would pay down debt.
Almost 63 percent of Americans expect a tax refund this year, the survey reported.
Donna Russell, co-owner of All Pro Tax & Accounting Services in Toledo, said most of her clients say they'll save their returns or pay bills this year. That's a big change from the early 2000s, she said.
"In years past, we've seen people say, 'I'm going to take a trip,' or 'I'm going to go shopping.' We are not seeing that this year," Ms. Russell said. "They see the economy as being uncertain, and there has been a lot of bumps in the road this year, and they are keeping that in mind. In the event they have a little bit of a rough spot this year, they have a little bit saved for it."
Only 11.3 percent of those surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they'd use their tax return for a vacation. Slightly more than that, 12.3 percent, said they'd use the money for a major purchase.
Many of the people who come to Tom Baird to have their taxes prepared are paying bills or putting the money on a credit card. Mr. Baird, who is the president of Financial Consulting Associates in Toledo, also gives financial advice and said putting a return into savings or an investment is probably the best thing to do with it.
"Depending on their age, I would advise them if they were younger or have kids to put it into a 529 college fund," he said. "If they're older and looking at retirement, they should put it into something that saves, like a treasury bill."
Taxpayers are interested in taking control of their financial futures, said Kathy Grannis, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation. The economy has been turbulent since 2008, so people know to expect uncertainty, she added.
"When it comes to tax returns, it really does vary from year to year," Ms. Grannis said. "In recent years, we have seen the distinct desire of people to treat themselves to something nice, and in other years, they have wanted to pay down debt.
"This year, consumers seem to really want to get a better hold of their finances and stash some cash away for whatever reason."
Contact Kris Turner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6103.