Most people like receiving a tax refund – it’s kind of like a windfall for many people, especially those for whom saving is a difficult discipline. However, getting a big tax refund from the IRS may not necessarily be the best thing for you in certain situations.
Try to think about your refund in a different way. Essentially, you are giving the government an interest-free loan, which they give back to you when you file your taxes. There’s really no reason to do that, other than you like the surprise surplus.
A lot of people don’t like the idea of owing the government, or are afraid they will not have the money available at tax time to pay the bill. That is a valid concern. However, if you adjust your withholding enough so that you owe on April 15th, that also means you have more money in your paycheck each month.
In reality, whether you owe the government or they owe you, the amount of tax collected is virtually the same. The difference is whether you have your taxes paid for you via your paycheck, and have a smaller paycheck because of it (and a refund in the spring), or whether you set the money aside on your own and have a little bit more to take home from work every pay period.
If you set your withholding so that you’ll owe at tax time, you are in essence holding your own money longer. This can be helpful in situations such as being in debt, where payments are due every month. By having extra in your paycheck due to having less money deducted for taxes, you could use the extra money to pay a little more on your debt, thereby reducing the amount of interest you pay in the long run. Some people prefer this approach.
One potential thing to worry about with regard to waiting on federal tax returns. We have seen situations where state governments have delayed issuing refunds in the recent past due to staffing, fiscal woes, and other such problems. Even the federal government last year delayed receiving returns until Jan 31st last year (and therefore remitting refunds) — though that was due to the Fiscal Cliff. However, since the example has been seen in some states, and since the IRS apparently understaffed, it is not an unlikely possible scenario that the federal government might also delay issuing refunds on a larger scale in the future.
At the end of the day, whether you like to keep your own money until tax time or whether you prefer the windfall method, you can achieve this your preference by going to visit your Human Resources administrator. If you want more money in your paycheck – and possibly owing the IRS, claim more dependents. If you prefer a refund, claim fewer dependents. The form to make changes on is called a W-4.
It’s always good practice once a year to review your tax and financial situation and make adjustments as necessary.
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