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The Real Reason to Adjust Your Tax Withholding

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Tax photos why you should change withholding
Cassandra Hubbart, DailyFinance

(Updated: April 23, 2013)

With tax refunds arriving around the country, we're all hearing the annual chorus of financial advice telling you why getting a refund is actually a bad thing. But even though changing your withholding to get your money back faster may not be all that important right now, it can be very important if your family situation has changed.

The conventional wisdom on why big refunds are bad is that they mean that you've let Uncle Sam hang onto your money all year interest-free. Instead of having it squirreled away all year, you could have been spending that money throughout 2012.

But at least right now, letting the government have that interest-free loan isn't a big deal. That's because banks aren't paying you much interest on your money anyway. So if having too much taken out of your paycheck helps you gather up a savings nest-egg in the form of your tax refund, that could end up being better than just spending a few extra bucks every week.

When You Must Change Withholding

On the other hand, sometimes you really need to change your withholding. The most common case is when you get married or divorced, or have a child. For one-earner couples, if you get divorced, the wage-earning spouse will usually see a big increase in taxes. If you don't change your withholding, you won't have enough tax taken out -- opening yourself up to penalties and interest.

Marriage can bring some two-earner couples a bigger tax bill than they paid in total when they were single. Again, that can turn what was a refund into a year-end tax bill if you don't make any changes to your withholding.

Finally, having children can have an impact on your withholding. Because of personal exemptions and child tax credits, you may owe less in tax after having a child, giving you an opportunity to have less withheld. But if a stay-at-home parent returns to the workforce, it can create the same two-earner tax problems that married working couples face.

What to Do

If you're not sure about your withholding, you can always go to your HR department for guidance. They'll tell you how to fill out Form W-4 to make sure your withholding gets done right -- and works the way you want it to.

And in the meantime, if you got one, enjoy your refund!

For more tax info, visit the DailyFinance Tax Center


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Top 5 Reasons to Adjust Your W-4 Withholding

Common lifestyle changes, like getting a job or getting married, can change your tax liability. To avoid being caught off guard by an unexpected tax bill or huge tax refund, you'll need to adjust your withholdings on your paycheck.

Does Everyone Need to File an Income Tax Return?

Not everyone is required to file an income tax return each year. Generally, if your total income for the year doesn't exceed the standard deduction plus one exemption and you aren't a dependent to another taxpayer, then you don't need to file a federal tax return. The amount of income that you can earn before you are required to file a tax return also depends on the type of income, your age and your filing status.

How to Write Off Sales Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits you to write off either your state and local income tax or sales taxes when itemizing your deductions. People who live in a state that does not impose income taxes often benefit most from this deduction. However, you might also be better off deducting sales taxes instead of income taxes if you make large purchases during the year and your total sales tax payments exceed those for state income tax. You can use either the actual sales taxes you paid or the IRS optional sales tax tables.

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jdykbpl45

To finance Timmy Geithner's debt!

March 22 2012 at 12:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ilm9p

Better to over-pay than under-pay. Financial advisors, like wh*res, are on every street corner. They're lemmings for the most part anyway. Every last one of that ilk can be bought with a steak and a beer to schlep the latest get rich quick scheme.

March 19 2012 at 2:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ilm9p's comment
cpo1514

Why overpay??? Ever heard of tax planning??/ Pay quarterly?? If you like overpaying - send me your money.... you must be a LIB...

March 20 2012 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply