Wallet Killer: How to Avoid That Unexpected Tax Bill

April 25, 2022 Topic: Tax Returns Blog Brand: Politics Tags: Internal Revenue ServiceTax ReturnsTax Season

Wallet Killer: How to Avoid That Unexpected Tax Bill

For those who already got hit with an unexpected tax bill this spring, the smart move to make now is to take a closer look at their withholdings and make any necessary adjustments.

The Tax Day deadline of April 18 may already be in the rear-view mirror, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t get a head start and begin preparing for the next tax-filing season.

For those who already got hit with an unexpected tax bill this spring, the smart move to make now is to take a closer look at their withholdings and make any necessary adjustments. “It’s a tougher pill to swallow at the end of the year when you have a lot more due,” Or Pikary, a CPA and tax advisor at Mazars, a tax advisory firm in Los Angeles, told CNBC.

As most Americans are aware, people typically complete Form W-4 when starting a new job. This form tells the employer the amount of tax to withhold from an employee’s paycheck based on their marital status, number of allowances and dependents, and other factors. But as noted by CNBC’s personal finance expert Kate Dore, “many wrongly assume it’s a one-time activity.”

In fact, according to a survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs, nearly 45 percent of tax-filing Americans are unaware of when they last updated their withholdings. “If certain changes or life events happen throughout the year, it’s up to you to let your employer know about adjusting your tax withholding,” certified financial planner Philip Herzberg, lead financial advisor at Team Hewins in Miami, told the business news outlet.

However, do keep in mind that there are some experts who contend that withholding too much can lead to another set of problems. “While it might feel amazing to get a big refund, the truth is that a refund means that you’ve overpaid and essentially given the government an interest-free loan for no reason,” LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz noted in a statement. “That’s a big deal because that money could have instead helped you pay bills throughout the year, build up your emergency fund or even pay off some debt,” he added.

Similar sentiments were shared by personal finance expert Christy Bieber at The Motley Fool. “When I file my tax returns for the 2021 tax year, I’m going to owe a little bit of money to the IRS. … While this may not sound fun, I actually prefer to owe money rather than get a refund. And I’ve set up my tax payments throughout the year in order to make that happen,” she explains. “The reality is, if you are getting a refund, it’s not the windfall that it may seem to be at first glance. All that’s happening is you are getting back money that you overpaid and didn’t actually owe. You’re getting your own money returned to you after you’ve been without that cash for months as you waited to file your tax return,” she concluded.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters