Personal Finance

Here's who is most likely to get a bigger tax refund this year

Key Points
  • Tax refunds checks are 8.4 percent less compared to this time last year, thanks to changes ushered in by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
  • While many individuals could receive less back or even owe the IRS, there are still some who will actually receive bigger checks this year.
  • Even if you do get more money back, that's not all bad news, according to one tax expert.
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Even if you haven't started on your 2018 return, you've probably heard this tax year's horror story: lower-than-anticipated refund checks or the possibility you will owe the IRS.

This tax year holds surprises for many individuals after the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

So far, average refunds are down 8.4 percent from the same time last year, to about $1,865.

Yet some individuals still stand to receive bigger checks than they did last year.

Here are your income tax changes for 2019
Here are your income tax changes for 2019

"They're going to be wondering what everyone's complaining about," said Tim Steffen, director of advanced planning at Baird Private Wealth Management.

The likely candidates: individuals who make estimated quarterly payments to the IRS. That predominantly includes retirees, business owners and other individuals whose income is not withheld for tax purposes.

Those people tend to base their quarterly estimated tax payments on the previous year. So if they paid based off of tax year 2017, they likely paid too much, according to Steffen.

However, bigger refund checks aren't all good news.

In fact, it's best not to receive a large check from the IRS, Steffen said. Many people do like it though because it's a form of forced savings.

"They don't pay any interest," Steffen said of the IRS. "From a cash flow management standpoint, you're better off having use of the money yourself."

What to do

While it's too late to change how much you withheld last year, it's a good idea to mark your calendars now for next year.

A midyear check-up, ideally in June, can help you evaluate whether you're on the right track come April 2020.

Ready, set, file
Ready, set, file

"You should always do some sort of a projection during the year to see where you're at and make sure your payments are in line with what they should be," Steffen said.

More from Personal Finance:
These red flags on your 2018 tax return may spark IRS interest
Failed to withhold enough in 2018? The IRS has a surprise for you
The new tax law has a bunch of changes. What you need to know

That goes especially for business owners, he said, whose income may fluctuate.

One way to do that is through your accountant. That will likely require you to pay a fee, Steffen said, but could save you from hassles in the long run.

Another place to start is the IRS withholding calculator, now that it has been updated for the 2019 tax year.