Big Refund? Big Tax Bill? IRS Encourages New Jerseyans to Check Their Withholding Now

Photo credit: Daniel Borman

MOUNTAINSIDE – The Internal Revenue Service encourages taxpayers to take a few minutes to check their withholding to make sure what is being taken out of their paychecks matches their projected taxes.

If not enough is withheld; individuals will owe tax at the end of the year and may, in some cases, have to pay a penalty. If too much tax is withheld, they will lose the use of this money until they get their refund.


“At this time of year, it makes good financial sense to take a few minutes to make sure you’re on target with your withholding,” said IRS spokesperson Gregg Semanick. “If you’re not having enough withheld, you may still have time to avoid a penalty. If you are having too much withheld, now is the time to put a little more into your own pocket.”

Taxpayers should pay particular attention to their withholding if they received a big refund check this year or if they had to make a tax payment that was more than they could comfortably pay.

Individuals should also check their withholding if there are significant personal or financial changes in their life. Many of these changes involve the addition or reduction of exemptions or a change in filing status that alters the tax due, even if there has been no change in income. These life-changing events include: marriage; divorce; the birth or adoption of a child; the purchase or sale of a new home; and, retirement.

Other changes that can alter the amount that needs to be withheld include taking a second job, having a spouse go back to work, or receiving income not subject to withholding, such as rent, dividends, interest, or capital gains.

Wage earners can adjust the amount withheld by giving the employer a new Form W-4. This form asks for marital status, withholding allowances and any additional amount that needs to be withheld. Employers use the information on the W-4 to figure the taxes to be withheld from employee compensation according to calculation methods provided by the IRS.

While many individuals are pleased to see a refund, what they get usually represents what they have overpaid during the year. The average refund check has risen in most years over the past two decades.

“Some say they use the extra withholding as a ‘forced savings’ method. But Uncle Sam doesn’t pay interest on refunds, so putting the money in any type of savings account or paying down debts might be a better option. Many employers give their workers the opportunity to deposit part of their paycheck directly to a savings plan,” Semanick said. “Bring the tax you pay closer to the tax you owe.”

Those looking for assistance in figuring out whether they are withholding enough can get help from IRS Pub. 919, “How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding?” A set of worksheets in this publication assists taxpayers in adjusting for such items as multiple incomes, expected capital gains income and self-employment tax. Pub. 919 and Form W-4 are available at or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).

On-line help is also available at the IRS Web site. Click on “IRS Withholding Calculator” on the “Individuals” page. With the help of current pay stubs and a copy of last year’s tax form, users can check to see if they are withholding the right amount. Information from this calculator can then be used to revise a W-4.

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