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Filing season is barely three weeks old and the story so far is refunds, with the volume and amount paid to taxpayers way up over a year ago.

As of Saturday, DOR had issued 287,179 refunds worth $147.5 million, for an average refund of $514. As of the same date a year ago, DOR had issued 200,766 refunds worth $106.2 million, for an average refund of $529.

DOR has paid out $41.3 million more in refunds than at the same time a year ago.

There appears to be a ready explanation for this jump. A year ago, the IRS advised tax filers who itemize deductions to wait until mid-February for the release of revised tax tables. Apparently, a lot of taxpayers took the IRS advice.

Interestingly, the January revenue report DOR released on Feb. 3 showed refunds running $47 million ahead of January 2011. In fact, if refunds had come in as forecast, January revenue would have finished $2 million above benchmark rather than $44 million below. Now, that's sort of like saying the Patriots would have won yesterday if Wes Welker had made a catch — shoulda, coulda, woulda doesn't cut it in football, and it doesn't work in revenue collection either. But it's still worth mention.

So far, 375,676 taxpayers have filed, up 118,600 over a year ago. The vast majority of those, 355,598, have filed electronically.

The number of Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credits issued has risen from 2,045 a year ago to 3,979 this year, and the amount of credits returned to taxpayers has risen from $1.6 million a year ago to $3.2 million this year. The average credit is up $26, from $772 last year to $798 this year.

The number of Earned Income Tax Credits issued has risen from 106,614 a year ago to 124,999 this year, and the amount of credits returned to taxpayers has increased from $39.6 million last year to $46.4 million this year. The Commonwealth matches 15 percent of the federal EITC credit.

As is always the case, the quickest way to get your refund is to have it direct deposited; that will take an average of 3.2 business days, rather than 5.2 days it takes to issue a paper refund check

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