This morning I posted my annual review of the Consumer Reports auto issue. Now might be a good time to publish another annual reminder: It’s tax refund season! If you have a refund due this year and you’re getting antsy for it, you can check its status easily with this simple web-based tool from the IRS web site. You’ll need to provide your social security number, marital status, and exact refund amount in order for your request to be processed.
For years, I loved to get a tax refund. In fact, it seemed the only way I could save was by having extra withheld from my paycheck so that I’d get a big refund at the end of the year. Using this method, I was able to buy a new computer, a new bike, and all sorts of other toys. (But, of course, I was never smart enough to use the money to pay down debt.)
I’m older and wiser now, and I prefer not to get a tax refund. I’d rather get my money up front so I can tuck it into a savings account. This gives me an extra boost toward my goals — like taking a trip to Argentina or Cambodia.
But let me be clear: I certainly don’t begrudge others who do choose to get a refund. Some folks are happy to let the government use their money for a year, and others are like I used to be, using the refund as a means of forced saving. That’s fine.
If you’ve always received a refund but want to see if you now have the discipline to save on your own, consider adjusting your W-4 so that less is withheld from your paycheck. (The IRS withholding calculator can help you calculate how much you should have withheld.) This will, in essence, spread your refund out over the course of a year. If you have the discipline to use this money wisely, you’ll have use of it much earlier than if you had waited for a refund.
As for myself, I’m just getting started on my taxes. Because I was out of the country in February, I haven’t had a chance to get things organized until now. In fact, at this very moment, I’m having lunch with my accountant to deliver all of my data. (My accountant is also a good friend, so it’s not like I’m making a big production out of turning in my tax documents, though.) Will I get a refund this year? It’s possible, but unlikely. Lately, I’ve had a balance due come April 15th, and I expect this year will be no different.