Background Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who are corticosteroid-dependent or -refractory are at higher risk of developing disease- and treatment-related complications. Aims To identify retrospectively clinical factors present at diagnosis that predict the occurrence of corticosteroid dependency and refractoriness in Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) patients. Methods A total of 310 IBD patients (134 CD, 176 UC) were observed for 2140 person years and their use of systemic corticosteroids was determined. Outcomes of corticosteroid dependency and refractoriness were recorded. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to determine the clinical factors associated with outcomes. Results Seventy-seven (57.5%) CD and 95 (54.0%) UC patients had received corticosteroids during study period. In CD, thrombocytosis [Hazard ratio (HR):3.0] predicted, whereas colonic CD (HR:0.3) negatively predicted corticosteroid dependency. Stricturing phenotype (HR:4.5) predicted corticosteroid-refractory CD. For UC, thrombocytosis (HR:3.9) and extensive colitis (HR:1.7) predicted corticosteroid dependency. Presence of anaemia (HR:10.8) at diagnosis and initial requirement of total parenteral nutrition (TPN) (HR:18.8) predicted corticosteroid- refractory UC. The cumulative risks of surgery were 17.8% and 5.4% for CD and UC patients respectively at 1 year after starting corticosteroids. Conclusions Thrombocytosis at diagnosis predicted corticosteroid-dependency in IBD. Stricturing phenotype of CD and the presence of anaemia in UC predicted subsequent course of corticosteroid refractoriness.