The IRS opened the 2024 tax season just two weeks ago, on January 29, and taxpayers are already receiving their tax refund money from the agency.

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Taxpayers can typically expect to receive a refund within 21 days if they file electronically and opt for direct deposit, the IRS said. But by February 2, five days into the tax filing season, the IRS had already issued 2.6 million refunds. By comparison, the IRS has sent out more than 7.9 million refunds as of February 3, 2023. Last year's tax season began 6 days earlier, however, on January 23, 2023, so the IRS had nearly a week to more to process tax returns and submit refunds.

This story is part Taxes 2024CNET's coverage of the best tax software, tax tips and everything else you need to file your return and track your refund.

See how the IRS is faring this year. To learn more about taxes, check out our essential Cheat Sheet for 2024 Tax Return It is the best tax software for 2024.

How many tax returns has the IRS processed so far in 2024?

From February 2nd, the IRS said it processed 13.9 million federal income tax returns, a 16.9% drop from the 16.7 million it processed last year. With tax season starting in early 2023 – January 23, 2023, versus January 29, 2024 – tax filers had six more days last year to submit their tax returns.

The IRS also received 15.3 million returns through February 2, a 19.1% drop from the 18.8 million received through February 3, 2023.

Of the 15.3 million returns received so far, all but 409,000 have been filed electronically, the IRS said — 4.8 million from tax preparers and another 10 million from self-preparers.

How many tax refunds has the IRS issued so far?

The IRS issued 2.6 million refunds as of February 2, a 67.3% drop from the 7.9 million sent through February 3, 2023.

In the first week of this fiscal year, the IRS refunded $3.6 billion – a 76.8% drop from the $15.6 billion sent on the same date last year. However, as mentioned above, the 2023 tax season began six days earlier on January 23.

How do 2024 tax refunds compare to 2023 so far?

The average refund size also fell 28.9%, from $1,963 for the 2023 tax season through Feb. 3, to $1,395 for this season so far.

Of those who received refunds, 2.6 million opted for direct deposit and the refund was $1,543. In comparison, in the same period last year, 6.9 million direct depositors had already received their return, which averaged $2,056.

To learn more, here are the dates you need to know to get through this tax season. To learn more about taxes, see how to open an account on the IRS website and what to know about this year's child tax credit.