By Associated Press - Thursday, March 22, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nice Internal Revenue Service refund check that many families eagerly await this time of year is down slightly from 2011 but still not too shabby: an average of about $3,000.

Through March 10, the IRS had issued 59.2 million refund checks totaling $174.4 billion, Douglas H. Shulman, commissioner of internal revenue, told a House subcommittee Thursday. Those figures compare with 59 million refunds totaling $178.3 billion a year ago.

Based on those figures, this year’s refund checks average $2,946, down marginally from last year’s $3,022.

An IRS spokesman said the agency isn’t certain why the figure has dipped. He noted that the widely used Making Work Pay tax credit created by the 2009 economic stimulus law had expired and another credit for first-time homebuyers has been restricted.

Mr. Shulman told the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee that through March 10, the IRS had processed almost 71 million individual returns, a small increase.

Nearly 26 million filers prepared their own electronic returns, an 11 percent jump from 2011.

The agency has directly deposited 51 million refunds to taxpayers, up 3 percent.

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