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Fatten Your Paycheck and Still Get a Tax Refund

Updated for Tax Year 2020


OVERVIEW

If you usually get a tax refund, but would like to start putting more money in your pocket every month, we can help. Yes, you still have to fill out a W-4 form. But we've developed a quick and easy guide to assist you.


big paycheck and still get tax refund

When you file your taxes and get a tax refund, most people celebrate. But have you ever taken a second to think about what a refund means? Over the course of the year, you paid more federal income tax than you owed. In other words, you gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan.

If you'd rather have a fatter paycheck and a smaller refund, you can control this. All you have to do is submit a new Form W-4 to your employer to adjust your federal income tax withholding.

Most tax filers get refunds

If you received a tax refund last year, you aren't alone. In fact, you're in the majority. According to the IRS, almost 112 million tax filers received refunds in 2019. Or, in other words, about seven out of every 10 returns resulted in a refund. And filers that chose the direct deposit option received an average refund of $2,975.

  • This windfall at tax time can be handy. However, it may provide even more value spread out throughout the year, rather than receiving it all at once.
  • The average tax filer would have received roughly an additional $248 per month if they adjusted their withholding to neither get a refund nor owe taxes.

Adjusting your withholding could move your refund to your paychecks

If getting your refund throughout the year rather than at tax time sounds appealing, you can adjust your withholding today. To do so, you'll need to fill out a new Form W-4 and submit it to your employer.

This form requires you to fill in a few sections depending on your situation. The more accurately you complete the form, the more precise your withholding should be.

  • For those with multiple jobs or that have a spouse that works, you'll need to complete Step 2.
  • Otherwise, you can use Step 3, claiming dependents, and Step 4, other adjustments, to make changes to your withholding.
  • These options allow you to reduce the tax withheld through claiming tax credits or deductions.
  • They also let you add other sources of income or extra withholding if you find you want more money withheld from your paycheck.

Tools, such as withholding tax calculators, can help you figure out what to fill in on the various steps of Form W-4. You'll have to answer questions about your tax situation before the calculator will tell you how to fill out your Form W-4.

How tax withholding calculators can help

Tax withholding calculators, such as the one TurboTax offers, help you get a big picture view of your refund situation by asking detailed questions. You'll need to provide information like your

  • filing status,
  • age,
  • dependents,
  • number of jobs worked,
  • income from each position,
  • tax withheld to date or per paycheck,
  • tax credit information,
  • deduction information and
  • other income you may have.

If you're stuck on any question, TurboTax will provide more details about what exactly you're looking for so you can input the right information.

Based on the results, you can determine if making adjustments to your withholding to lower your refund and get a bigger paycheck is the right move for you.

  • If you do decide to make any changes, the calculator will show you what to write on each line of Form W-4.
  • You can also adjust the results to hone in on your ideal size for an estimated tax refund — by increasing or decreasing your withholding to make sure you get the right amount in your paychecks.

Do you still want a refund? Here's what to do

If you normally look forward to getting a bigger refund after you file your taxes, there's a fairly simple adjustment you can make.

  1. First, use the withholding calculator to fill out Form W-4 so you don’t get a refund or owe any taxes.
  2. Next, you'll want to adjust line 4(c), called "Extra withholding," which adds additional withholding to each paycheck you receive.

To figure out how much you should add, first think about how much of a refund you'd like to see after taxes. Once you know your desired amount,

  • Divide that by the number of paychecks you get in a year.
  • Take the result and add that number to what the calculator told you to put on line 4(c).
  • Assuming your tax situation matches exactly with what you put in the calculator; you should get the refund you want.

For example, say you want your refund to be $240 and you get paid twice per month.

  • Take $240 and divide it by 24.
  • Take the result, $10, and add it to the amount the calculator originally told you for extra withholding and put the new total on line 4(c).

You should take the time to work with the withholding calculator to find the balance between a big refund and a big paycheck. Likely, in order for your paycheck to still be bigger, your desired refund amount will need to be smaller than your usual refund — which assumes nothing else has changed in your tax situation. If your desired refund is higher than your typical refund, your paycheck will likely shrink due to the extra withholding.

  • Keep in mind, in order to see the results you're looking for, these W-4 adjustments will need to be made before the start of the tax year in question.
  • If you make adjustments in the middle of the year, your results may vary.

Turn in your completed Form W-4 to your employer

Once you've filled out your Form W-4, submit it to the correct department at your company as soon as possible. The faster you turn in the form and get it processed, the more accurate the calculations the calculator provided should be for the year. The effort will be well worth it when you start seeing bigger paychecks.

When you get your W-2 and other tax documents next year, TurboTax can help you complete your tax return. Then, you can see what your final refund or amount owed ends up being.

 

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