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Catherine Campbell, an engineer at the Ford Motor Company, left, volunteers to help tax filers claim the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and state tax credits. She is talking with Frederick Matthews of Westland about his state tax return at the Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit on Jan. 31, 2020.

Sure, many people absolutely dread the thought of facing yet another tax season. Who wants to catalog all those charitable contributions? And dig for every last receipt? And waste time heading to a tax office somewhere? 

But plenty of people file in February because they just can’t wait a second longer to get their hands on all that tax refund cash. They’re on edge about the size of their tax refunds, and they’re far from alone.

Roughly 60 million individual tax filers typically file a federal income tax return by the end of February  – or nearly 40% of the individual income tax returns filed for the tax year. 

Call it tax refund anxiety. 

We’re anxious because that once-a-year tax refund check is our ticket to paradise. 

“Feeling like you’re flush for a moment, that’s very powerful at a time when a lot of people don’t have a lot of slack in their budgets,” said Jonathan Morduch, professor of public policy and economics at the New York University Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. 

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The tax refund often is the single largest chunk of money they will see at once. It’s a windfall that can plug holes in a budget. Or money that can be used to cover a few dreams along the way, maybe a weekend trip in the summer. 



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