Money

5 best—and worst—places in the US for getting a tax refund

Now that tax season is in full swing, it can be good to know that the amount of your refund, or the amount you owe, is relative based on where you live. That's according to a new study from personal-finance website Magnify Money, which analyzed the IRS tax data of 100 U.S. metros from 2012 to 2016.

17 percent of taxpayers faced a federal tax bill, at an average of $5,294, and 78 percent got a refund, at an average of $3,052, the data shows.

Of the top 10 places where filers got the biggest refunds, here are the top five:

Fort Myers, Florida

Average refund amount: $3,799
Percent of filers who got a refund: 70 percent

Miami, Florida

Average refund amount: $3,706
Percent of filers who got a refund: 76 percent

McAllen, Texas

Average refund amount: $3,666
Percent of filers who got a refund: 88 percent

New York, New York

Average refund amount: $3,664
Percent of filers who got a refund: 75 percent

Houston, Texas

Average refund amount: $3,601
Percent of filers who got a refund: 78 percent

Of the top 10 places where filers owed the most, here are the top five:

San Francisco, California

Average amount owed: $7,226
Percent of filers who owed: 25 percent

Denver, Colorado

Average amount owed: $5,607
Percent of filers who owed: 22 percent

San Diego, California

Average amount owed: $5,260
Percent of filers who owed: 22 percent

Boise, Idaho

Average amount owed: $4,694
Percent of filers who owed: 21 percent

Sacramento, California

Average amount owed: $4,243
Percent of filers who owed: 22 percent

As it turns out, "Tax season really hurts out west," the study notes. "Eight of the top 10 metros where taxpayers owed the IRS were either on the West Coast, Midwest or Southwest regions.

"California metros took three of the top spots," it adds, and "San Francisco tops the list among those who owe taxes." A quarter of "San Francisco taxpayers owes taxes when they file, with an average tax bill of $7,226. That's about 40 percent greater than the national average."

But some of that cost might be offset by refunds of state taxes at filing, according to the study, and those are not included in the IRS data. Also, while San Francisco residents who owe may face huge bills, those who do get a refund take home the sixth-largest check, at an average $3,466.

If you find that you owe the IRS after filing your taxes — which is a more likely scenario if you itemize your deductions rather than standardize them, the study notes — don't ignore the bill: "If you fail to pay your tax debt, you could face a host of penalties, from interest charges and late fees to wage garnishment and even liens against your property."

Considering enrolling in an IRS payment plan if you can't pay the full amount in a lump sum.

If you receive a sizable refund, on the other hand, here are some smart things you can do with it.

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