Almost a year ago, Zero Hedge looked at the trend in US tax refunds, and we found that last year the government was doing everything in its power to accelerate the remittance of refunds to taxpayers. Back then we said that "one of the primary reasons why consumers may have exhibited an abnormal propensity to spend in January and most of February (at least according to government, if not Gallup, data), is the much greater individual tax refunding conducted by the Treasury/IRS this year compared to the prior year." But if accelerated tax refunds was the story in 2010, in 2011, at least so far in the year, it is precisely the opposite. In fact, to date the IRS has refunded nearly $20 billion less compared to 2010, and about $14 billion less than in 2009. With consumers suddenly having far less cash, does this mean that February and March are set to be major disappointments from a retail sales perspective, and any other vertical having to do with consumer "strength"?
Using Daily Treasury Statement data, we compile the weekly data for the first 13 weeks heading into April 15 (the point by which most refunds have been issued), and find that both average weekly remittance and 2011 cumulative refund issuance is running at a nearly 20% lower run rate than 2010.