More than halfway into the tax filing season, the number of people who have filed returns with the Internal Revenue Service is down significantly from about the same point last year, according to the latest statistics from the federal agency.
The IRS said it had received about 69.4 million returns as of March 10. That number was down more than 5 million, or 6.8 percent, from the number as of March 11 last year.
Visits to the irs.gov website were also down by 7.3 percent to just under 215 million.
Massachusetts is seeing the same trend. Through Tuesday, the number of tax returns filed totaled about 1.5 million, down about 5 percent from the same point last year, a state revenue department spokeswoman said.
Why have fewer Americans filed so far this year?
As of March 10, this year’s season was only 34 workdays old, while the tax season last year, as of March 11, was 38 workdays old.
The IRS noted that because of that difference “year-to-year comparisons are difficult at this early point in the season.”
Other factors may also be in play.
According to Bloomberg News, each tax season tends to run at its own pace for a variety of reasons. The news outlet, citing experts, listed several factors that may be affecting the rate of filing:
■ A new law intended to crack down on fraud caused the IRS to warn it would not be able to issue refunds this year as quickly as it has in previous years for filers claiming certain tax credits. This may have discouraged many people who claim those credits, a group that normally files early.
■ The warnings of delayed refunds may have also discouraged others who don’t claim those credits.
■ Undocumented immigrants may be afraid to file due to President Trump’s vow to crack down on illegal immigration.
■ People may be confused by ongoing discussions by politicians about changing health care and possible tax cuts (though waiting won’t matter since any tax code changes would not affect what you owe this year).
■ People may just be procrastinating.
The usual deadline, April 15, falls on a Saturday this year, and the following Monday is Emancipation Day, which is a holiday in Washington, D.C., pushing the deadline off another day.
It’s possible that’s another reason for people procrastinating. But then again, the federal deadline also fell on April 18 last year.Matt Rocheleau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele.