Avoid Surprises at Tax Time: Check Your Withholding Now
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 reduced taxes on 80% of all Americans. The IRS has updated the forms and tables for income tax withholding to reflect the new rates. The new rates and withholding tables could mean surprises for some workers at tax time next year. It is important to understand how withholding works and what these changes mean for you.
How Income Tax Withholding Works
Most working Americans have estimated income taxes taken out of each paycheck throughout the year. Employers take a part of each employee’s paycheck and send it to the IRS. This system is called “withholding”.
When the year is over, your employer totals up the withholding for income tax and lists the amount on your Form W2. This form also has other details on your earnings, and on payroll tax payments.
Withholding from your paycheck for income taxes is based on an estimate of what your income tax bill will be. The actual amount of income tax you owe is determined when you file your personal income tax return.
Your “tax return” is the set of paperwork you send (by mail, or electronically) to the IRS showing your income, deductions, and tax payments. Your “tax refund” is the money you get back if you overpaid your taxes during the year. Personal income tax returns are usually due by April 15th of the following year.
If the amount withheld from your paychecks during the year is greater than the amount of income tax you owe, you receive a tax refund. If you didn’t pay enough tax throughout the year, you may have to pay a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax.
New Tax Law Means New Withholding Tables
The IRS provides a form called Form W4 that employees use to provide withholding instructions to their employer. Changes to this form will change the amount of tax withheld from each paycheck. The IRS also gives employers a set of tables called “withholding tables”. Employers use the withholding table, and the employee’s Form W4, to determine how much tax should be withheld from each paycheck.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides new, lower income tax rates for the majority of workers. Because most workers will have a lower income tax bill, the IRS has released new withholding tables to reflect the lower rates. Under the new tables, less tax will be withheld than last year for the same amount of earnings. For many workers, the new tables will suffice. However, some taxpayers may find that the new tables do not withhold enough estimated tax.
You can perform a quick “paycheck checkup” using the IRS withholding calculator at www.IRS.gov . Ask your tax advisor for an estimate of your 2018 taxes. If it looks like you will owe more than is being withheld, you can file an updated W4 to request extra withholding. When it comes to possible underpayment of income taxes, the sooner you start to fix it, the better!
Peter C. Golotko is president and CEO of CPS Investment Advisors. Matthew Treskovich is the Chief Investment Officer for CPS Investment Advisors.