As a proponent of owing federal taxes during filing season as opposed to receiving a refund, I have to be wary to avoid penalties for underpaying taxes along the way. Federal taxes are meant to be a 'pay as you earn' system where you should be "safe harbor" tax law, which are the conditions I need to satisfy in order to NOT owe penalties for underpayment. These can be found in chapter 4 of Publication 505 of the IRS website, which I will describe in more detail in this post.
If given the following options, which would you choose? Would you rather...
- offer the federal government an interest-free loan for up to 16 months, or
- receive an interest-free loan from the government for up to 16 months.
The heart of this choice is played out every year, when individuals choose their allowances on their W4 form which determines how much taxes to defer for federal taxes. Withhold more than you owe - you will get a tax refund. Withhold less than you owe - you will have to pay the amount owed. Every year when it comes time to file taxes, I like to ask people whether they owe taxes or are receiving a tax refund. It seems a majority receive a tax refund, and are very happy about it at that! I get it. I get the psychological win, but anyone can set up their withholdings in such a way to receive a tax refund, and in some cases a huge one. But is that the way to go? I do not believe so.