U.S. tax refunds were higher in the first three months of 2001 than a year earlier as an increase in the average amount returned made up for fewer taxpayers getting refunds, the Internal Revenue Service said. Tax refunds totaled $100 billion as of March 30, up 4.6% from $95.6 billion as of March 31, 2000, according to the IRS. The number of taxpayers receiving refunds fell 0.4%, to 57.1 million from 57.3 million. The average refund rose to $1,751 from $1,668, a 5% increase. Two weeks from the filing deadline, the increase in refunds is smaller this year than the 10.6% rise recorded in the first three months of 2000 over the same period in 1999. Electronic filing of federal returns this year, which includes both computer and telephone filing, has increased 11.2%, to 32.6 million returns. The total represents 46% of all returns. The number of people filing their own returns by computer has increased by 36%, the IRS said. Returns prepared by a tax professional and filed by computer rose 12.3%. The IRS said it has processed 62.8 million tax returns so far this season, down 1.1% from last year.