Ultimately, about 85 percent of individual returns qualified for refunds last year, totaling about $360 billion. The refunds averaged $3,000, about the same amount as so far this year.
Economists say tax refunds typically provide a boost to the economy each spring. This year, however, more people say they plan to save, invest or use their refunds to pay down debts.
Only 27 percent of the people surveyed said they plan to simply spend their tax refund, down from 38 percent in 2009.
Forty-five percent said they would save or invest their refunds, compared with 35 percent in 2009. Forty-four percent said they would pay down debt, compared with 37 percent in 2009.
"A lot of people got caught with too much debt going into this recession and may well take this as an opportunity to reduce their debt level rather than go out and rent that summer house," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. "When they're scared, they are more likely to save it than if they are happy and feel like the good times will continue forever."
The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted March 24-28 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.