Personal Finance

Even if you haven’t started on your 2018 return, you’ve probably heard this tax year’s horror story: lower than anticipated refund checks or the possibility you will owe the IRS.

This tax year holds surprises for many individuals following the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

So far, average refunds are down 8.4 percent from the same time last year, to about $1,865.

Yet some individuals still stand to receive bigger checks than they did last year.

“They’re going to be wondering what everyone’s complaining about,” said Tim Steffen, director of advanced planning at Baird Private Wealth Management.

The likely candidates: individuals who make estimated quarterly payments to the IRS. That predominantly includes retirees, business owners and other individuals whose income is not withheld for tax purposes.

Those people tend to base their quarterly estimated tax payments on the previous year. So if they paid based off of tax year 2017, they likely paid too much, according to Steffen.

However, bigger refund checks aren’t all good news.

In fact, it’s best not to receive a large check from the IRS, Steffen said. Many people do like it though because it’s a form of forced savings.

“They don’t pay any interest,” Steffen said of the IRS. “From a cash flow management standpoint, you’re better off having use of the money yourself.”

While it’s too late to change how much you withheld last year, it’s a good idea to mark your calendars now for next year.

A mid-year check-up, ideally in June, can help you evaluate whether you’re on the right track come April 2020.

“You should always do some sort of a projection during the year to see where you’re at and make sure your payments are in line with what they should be,” Steffen said.

More from Personal Finance:
These red flags on your 2018 tax return may spark IRS interest
Failed to withhold enough in 2018? The IRS has a surprise for you
The new tax law has a bunch of changes. What you need to know

That goes especially for business owners, he said, whose income may fluctuate.

One way to do that is through your accountant. That will likely require you to pay a fee, Steffen said, but could save you from hassles in the long run.

Another place to start is the IRS withholding calculator, once it has been updated for the 2020 tax year.

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