May 1, 2008
I’m expecting an unusually large tax refund this year. How can I better assess whether my withholding is correct?
-R. Peters, Atlanta
You, my friend, are not alone. All too often, people view a hefty tax refund as a windfall, rather than recognize that they’ve lost the opportunity to have that money work for them all year. Don’t be a repeat offender.
I don’t have the details of your situation, but think about what happened during the past year that may have led to this marked increase. Often people only think about their withholding after they get a refund or pay a big tax bill, but it’s advisable to check your withholding whenever an important financial or life change occurs-such as a marriage, home purchase, or birth of a child.
To get a handle on what adjustments you’ll want to make, visit the Internal Revenue Service Website (www.irs.gov) to obtain a copy of Publication 919, “How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding?” Also, if you type “withholding calculator” into the site’s search engine, you’ll be led to an online calculator that can help you figure out the adjustments you may need to make.
Once you’ve completed your calculations, you’ll need to file a new W-4 with your employer. You should see at least a slight bump up in your paycheck. Whatever the increase amount, make sure you put it to good use-either in an interest-bearing account, or at least making a dent in any debts you may have.