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Plans for Tax Refund Checks Hint at Better Mood

As consumer confidence rises to a three-year high, the National Retail Federation offers yet another sign of a more upbeat consumer.

AP

The retail industry trade group is out with a survey that says more Americans are planning to splurge a little if they receive a tax refund this year.

About 13.2 percent of Americans said they will spend their refund on a big ticket item such as a television set or furniture, up from 12.5 percent last year.

About 11.9 percent are earmarking the money for a vacation, compared with 10.0 percent last year who eyed a trip.

About 29.7 percent of Americans say they will use the money on everyday items. That's also higher than last year, when 28.8 percent of those surveyed said the money would be spent on day-to-day expenses.

"Despite the difficult unemployment situation across the country, Americans receiving a tax refund this year seem eager to plough this money back into the economy," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "With sales momentum continuing to build, NRF is becoming more bullish about the economic recovery."

Still, there are a good number of people who will be squirreling their tax refunds away for a rainy day. About 42.1 percent of those surveyed by BIGresearch — who did the survery for NRF — said they would put their refund in savings. That's also higher than last year, when 40.3 percent said they would save it.

Fewer people will take the money and pay off debt. About 41.9 percent said that's where their refund money would go, compared with last year when 43.9 percent said debt reduction was the plan.

What do you plan to spend your refund on?

2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
Pay down debt 43.1% 46.5% 48.0% 43.9% 41.9%
Savings 38.6% 37.2% 38.9% 40.3% 42.1%
Everyday expenses 26.5% 27.0% 26.7% 28.8% 29.7%
Major purchases 11.0% 12.1% 11.0% 12.5% 13.2%
Vacation 13.3% 12.1% 11.1% 10.0% 11.9%
Other 7.2% 7.5% 7.5% 7.3% 6.7%
Source: The National Retail Federation, survey conducted by BigResearch. The sum of the percentage totals may be greater than 100% because respondents could select more than one answer.

The economic boost from tax refunds should be felt soon. According to the survey, 63.9 percent of Americans will have filed their taxes by the end of February, meaning that some returns have already been received or are on their way.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

Retail