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Poll finds many Long Islanders pay bills with tax refund

A Tax Day crowd at the Farley Post

A Tax Day crowd at the Farley Post Office in midtown on Monday. (April 15, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Paying bills is the most popular use of federal income tax returns this year for Long Islanders and residents of New York City's northern suburbs, according to a new poll.

The Siena College Research Institute Monday reported that 65 percent of suburbanites plan to settle accounts with their refunds from Washington.

Sixty percent expected to or had received federal refunds. That compares with 43 percent last year.

For the past three years, Siena has surveyed residents statewide about refunds and how they are used.

Siena pollster Donald Levy said people were asked what they would do with their income tax refund and allowed to give multiple answers. In the suburbs, paying bills led the list for the past two years, followed by saving for emergencies (28 percent).

Other top choices this year were vacations and other leisure activities (17 percent), save for retirement (11 percent), buy appliances, furniture or clothes (10 percent), and save for children's college education (7 percent).

Levy said how people use refunds is tied to their sense of financial well-being. In the suburbs, 37 percent of those polled said they spent more money in the past year than they earned. Forty percent said their expenses and earnings matched up, while 22 percent said they had money left over after paying bills.

Many on Long Island and in the northern suburbs said they were worried about the future. Twenty-four percent expect to be worse off a year from now, while 29 percent said better off. Forty-two percent did not expect to see a change, year over year.

Some of the pessimism, said Levy, was due to high property taxes. Fifty-four percent of suburbanites said they paid "too much" in taxes, eight percentage points higher than the statewide average.

"They won the cranky-o-meter last year as well," he said.

The poll of 813 adults was conducted April 2-4 and 7-10, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 points.

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