Taxes.

It’s sad to say they are as certain as death. As the infamous Tax Day rolls around each April, we are reminded of the yearly obligation to file a tax return. It can cause anxiety and knots in our stomach as we race to the deadline or give up and decide to file an extension. I remember the days when people used to bring their tax returns to the post office just before midnight on the filing day so that they could delay their returns as much as possible. I am not sure if that happens anymore these days as electronic filing has become the norm, but it was always quite the event each year.

It’s always amazing to me how many people get excited about receiving a tax refund when they calculate their tax return. You would have thought they had received an extra bonus of some sort. The truth is that the government has been hanging on to your money ALL YEAR LONG. And you aren’t getting paid interest for giving the government a loan! The average refund for the 2017 US tax filing is $3,120. That’s $260 a month that you could be using to pay off debt, save for retirement, or pay bills. Make sure you aren’t overpaying throughout the year when you could be putting that money to better use throughout the year.

Here are some tips to make sure you aren’t overpaying your taxes throughout the year:

Change your tax withholdings. At any point during the year, you can change the amount of allowances that determine the amount of federal taxes withheld from your paycheck (most states with income tax withholding will follow your federal selection). Changing your allowances with either increase or decrease the amount of tax that your employer withholds throughout the year. If you are getting a refund this year, you may want to increase the allowances so that you have less tax taken from your paycheck. Before you make any changes to your W-4, I would highly suggest speaking to a tax professional about the amount of allowances that make sense for your situation. Contact your human resources department to learn how to make these changes for your pay.

Talk to a professional about any life events that may affect your tax return. You may have some major life changes that are coming your way that could affect your taxes, like the birth of a child or a marriage. Talk to a tax professional early in the tax year about these changes and what can be done through your withholdings, so you don’t get a huge refund at your tax filing.

If you are getting a refund, be wise with your decision of what to do with it. Be sure to use that tax money wisely. Are you trying to pay off debt? Are you planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Do you need to beef up your savings account or catch up on your investing? Be purposeful and thoughtful about the money you are getting back so you don’t regret your actions in the future.

Did you get a refund this year or did you end up owing at tax time?