Spend it if you got it

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Craig resident Elisa Hayes got back a larger tax refund than she expected this year. So, what did she do with it?

"Most of it I paid bills with," said the recipient of more than $4,000.

"Then I bought an iPod and bought my husband a camcorder."

Hayes is like the millions of taxpayers who are expected to get an income tax refund this year, but what people do with it is across the board.

According to the Internal Revenue Service about 80 percent of Americans, or about 106 million people, received tax refunds last year. An average refund totaled $2,117.

For Becky Smith of Craig, a $96 refund will go toward buying toys for her child. Smith, who is married and has a child, says she likes that she's able to deduct about $9,000 from the family income for taxes. Although her refund is relatively small, she said she was happy to not have to pay this year.

"At least that's good," she said.

Jerry Thompson, owner of Craig Ford, said his business gets a boost after the tax season, but that's probably not the result of people cashing in their refunds.

"Once in a while we get someone like that, but it's not a big deal," he said. "If there's any increase, it's after tax season once people know where they stand."

Craig's Rebecca Jones may be one to spend the bulk of her refund on a new car, but she's saving it for now. Her refund topped $3,000.

Smith said she would save the money either for a new vehicle or to move to a new location.

Craig couple Terrianne and Todd Wheeler used to try to pay off bills with money back from their income tax returns.

But this year, they'll spend those funds.

"This year, we're doing a new deck and putting in a sprinkler system," Terrianne said.

According to the IRS, many people use their withholdings as a "savings account." However, the government doesn't usually pay interest on refunds "so putting the money in any type of savings account or paying down debt might be a better option," states the government agency Web site, www.irs.gov.

Leafner Tan said he reinvested his refund, which was more than $3,000.

"People think it's free money, but it's your money at the end of the year," he said. "Those are taxes that you've paid that you're getting back."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craig-dailypress.com.

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