Oh No! Your Tax Refund is Now a Bill

Oh No! Your Tax Refund is Now a Bill

Many taxpayers start preparing their tax return with hopes of receiving a sizable refund, only to find out that their actual refund is much smaller than expected — or that they actually owe the federal government money instead! If this happens to you, here are some of the likely reasons:

  • Higher take-home pay. Look at last year’s W-2 and see how much was withheld for federal income tax. Now check this year’s W-2. If it is lower, you will need a corresponding reduction in your tax obligation to get the same refund as last year. The good news? You’ve had more of your income available to you throughout the year. The bad news? Paying less tax each pay period can result in a lower refund or even a tax due balance at tax filing time.
  • Withholding tables are not always accurate. The IRS provides businesses with tax tables to figure out how much of your paycheck should be withheld to pay your taxes. While these tables are mostly accurate, sometimes these tables instruct your employer to withhold more than necessary — leading to a refund. But sometimes the opposite is true and your employer may not withhold enough — leading to a balance due.
  • You earned money from a side hustle. You are responsible for making payments to the IRS for taxes you owe from working a side hustle or as a freelancer. If you didn’t make these payments to the IRS as you were earning the money throughout the year, you’ll have to make a lump-sum payment when you file your tax return.
  • Your state takes a different path. Tax laws passed by many states closely mirror tax laws passed by the federal government. But many times these laws never match 100%. This means that while you may see a refund on your federal tax return, you might end up owing money on your state tax return.

With the uncertainty of whether or not you’ll receive as large of a refund as you’re expecting, consider holding off on plans to spend your refund until your tax return is finalized.

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