Some people are surprised to learn they're due a large federal income tax refund when they file their taxes. Others are surprised that they owe more taxes than they expected. When this happens, it's a good idea to check your federal tax withholding or payments. Doing so now can help avoid a tax surprise when you file your 2013 tax return next year.

Here are some tips to help you bring the tax you pay during the year closer to what you'll actually owe.

Wages and Income Tax Withholding

  • New Job. Your employer will ask you to complete a Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. Complete it accurately to figure the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your paychecks.
  • Life Event Change your Form W-4 when certain life events take place. A change in marital status, birth of a child, getting or losing a job, or purchasing a home, for example, can all change the amount of taxes you owe. You can typically submit a new Form W-4 anytime.
  • IRS Withholding Calculator This handy online tool will help you figure the correct amount of tax to withhold based on your situation. If a change is necessary, the tool will help you complete a new Form W-4.

Self-Employment and Other Income

  • Estimated Tax. This is how you pay tax on income that's not subject to withholding. Examples include income from self-employment, interest, dividends, alimony, rent and gains from the sale of assets. You also may need to pay estimated tax if the amount of income tax withheld from your wages, pension or other income is not enough. If you expect to owe a thousand dollars or more in taxes and meet other conditions, you may need to make estimated tax payments.
  • Form 1040-ES. Use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to find out if you need to pay estimated taxes on a quarterly basis.
  • Change in Estimated Tax. After you make an estimated tax payment, some life events or financial changes may affect your future payments. Changes in your income, adjustments, deductions, credits or exemptions may make it necessary for you to refigure your estimated tax.
  • Additional Medicare Tax A new Additional Medicare Tax went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The 0.9 percent Additional Medicare Tax applies to an individual's wages, Railroad Retirement Tax Act compensation and self-employment income that exceeds a threshold amount based on the individual's filing status. For additional information on the Additional Medicare Tax, see our questions and answers.
  • Net Investment Income Tax A new Net Investment Income Tax went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax applies to individuals, estates and trusts that have certain investment income above certain threshold amounts. For additional information on the Net Investment Income Tax, see our questions and answers.

See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more on this topic. You can get it at IRS.gov or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).

TaxACT helps you determine how much you should withhold and complete a Form W-4 you can print and turn into your employer. Simply sign in to your TaxACT Online account or start your desktop program and click on the blue "Next Year" tab.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

July 1 Occupational excise taxes
File Form 11C to register and pay the annual tax if you are in the business of accepting wagers.

July 4 Everyone
Federal Holiday (Independence Day) - Details

July 10 Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during June, report them to your employer - Details

July 10 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of June.

July 14 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 15 days of June.

July 15 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 15 Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 27 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 15 days of June.

July 29 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of July.

July 31 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

July 31 Certain small employers
Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2015 but less than $2,500 for the second quarter.

July 31 Federal unemployment tax
Deposit the tax owed through June if more than $500.

July 31 All employers
If you maintain an employee benefit plan, such as a pension, profitsharing, or stock bonus plan, file Form 5500 or 5500EZ for calendar year 2014. If you use a fiscal year as your plan year, file the form by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends.

July 31 Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the second quarter of 2015.

July 31 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during June.

July 31 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in June.

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