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Thanks, Uncle Sam: Survey shows how we'll spend our tax refunds

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Splurge...or plan for a rainy day?

According to a new survey reported in the Wall Street Journal, half of all American adults who expect to get a tax return this year indicate that they plan to save the money (26 percent) or use it to pay off existing debt (25 percent).

The online survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of CarMax, explores the tax filing habits of Americans and how they plan to spend their refund. The survey found that about three in 10 people (29 percent) are not expecting a refund this year.

Other key findings in the Ispos survey show that Midwesterners are most likely to say that they file their tax return in advance of the deadline, with 89 percent of the residents of the region saying they will not be dashing to the mailbox at the post office at midnight on April 14.

Meanwhile, CNBC reported on a similar survey by financial services firm Edward Jones that also looked at plans for refunds. That survey found that only 8 percent would spend a tax refund on something fun, like clothes, entertainment or a meal out. By contrast, 52 percent said that if they were to get a refund this year, they'd spend it on necessary items, like household expenses or credit card debt. In the Edward Jones survey, 30 percent planned to save a refund, and 8 percent planned to invest it.

The phone survey of 1,018 Americans was conducted earlier this year and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

For many Americans, a tax refund represents a significant financial boost. The CNBC story said the IRS reports the average refund so far this year is $3,116.

ABC News offers the reminder that getting any tax return means that the taxpayer has paid too much all year and the government has kept it. Maria Brisbane, a Merrill Lynch adviser to high net worth families and wealthy individuals, tells ABC News that rich people, being tax-advised to the hilt, seldom get a refund check because they don't pay a dime's more tax than they have to.

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