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Why is my refund smaller, or why do I owe money this year?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the most significant revision of the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, changed withholding tables. This could mean less money was taken out of each paycheck and applied to your total tax, so there is less to refund. If you were used to receiving a small refund in previous years, you may even owe tax this year.

Other tax reform changes include an increase in the standard deduction, suspension of personal exemptions, an increase in the child tax credit, a limit or discontinuance on certain deductions and a new credit for other dependents. Any or all of these changes could have a significant impact on your total tax, especially in comparison to previous years.

Should I adjust my withholding?

If your refund is smaller than in previous years, or you owe a balance, you can change the amount withheld from your paycheck going forward if you wish. File Form W-4 Employee’s Withholding Certificate to adjust the amount taken out of each paycheck.

You can use the TaxAct W-4 Withholding Calculator to take into account recent tax changes and adjust your withholding accordingly.

How do I know my refund amount is correct when it seems lower than usual?

TaxAct works thoroughly with the IRS and state tax agencies to incorporate tax legislation changes into our software calculations. Tax preparation software is the most trusted and easiest way to file a complete and accurate tax return.

Rest assured that when you use TaxAct to file your tax return, you are covered by TaxAct Guarantees, which include:

  • $100,000 Accuracy Guarantee
  • Maximum Refund Guarantee
  • Satisfaction Guarantee

What do I do if I owe money this year?

If you owe money on your federal return, you have until May 17th, 2021 to pay the IRS. Keep in mind, you do not have to pay at the same time you file. You can file your return anytime and wait to pay until May 17th.

If you are unable to pay the money you owe, you can contact the IRS to set up a payment plan. Failing to file your return and pay any tax liability by the filing deadline may result in penalties, interest charges, tax liens and/or levies.

Related Links

Note that any link in the information above is updated each year automatically and will take you to the most recent version of the document at the time it is accessed.


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