It's been a week since Tax Day 2022. Those who submitted tax returns have been enjoying being done with the Internal Revenue Service for another year.
But maybe it's time to give Uncle Sam's tax collector a little more thought.
Here are 5 tax matters to consider so that you can completely clear your 2021 tax year decks.
1. Review your payroll withholding: The IRS reminds us every year that most taxpayers get refunds. That's because a lot of filers plan it that way. They overwithhold taxes from their paychecks as a forced savings account.
I get it. It's an easy way to make sure you don't spend every penny you earn. But it also means you must wait until tax filing season to access your money that's locked away in the Bank of Uncle Sam.
A better move might be to adjust your withholding so that you get the excess amount that was taken from your pay. Then work with your bank or credit union to have that amount that the IRS used to get got directly to your savings account. That way it's not in your paycheck, easily tempting you to spend it. But you do have access to it in case of emergency, such as an unexpected illness or auto repair or all the other things life throws in our way.
Adjusting your withholding is easy. Start by using the IRS' online Tax Withholding Estimator. It will help you make sure you're withholding the appropriate amount to avoid either owing or getting a huge refund at tax filing time. Then using the revised withholding amount, complete a new Form W-4 and give it to your payroll administrator. The results will soon show up in your future paychecks.
2. Check your refund status: For all y'all whose returns resulted in refund, checking when you'll see that tax money is the biggie every year. The Internal Revenue Service is standing by its perennial advice here: Use the agency's Where's My Refund? feature.
Your refund info should be available via the online tracker 24 hours after e-filing. If you're old school and snail mailed a paper Form 1040, you need to wait four weeks after the U.S. Postal Service picked it up before you check Where's My Refund?
Once your filing method timetable is met, you can find your refund's status not only on the IRS.gov web page, but also via the tracking tool on the IRS2Go app. Taxpayers without access to a computer can check their refund's status by calling toll-free (800) 829-1954.
Whichever refund tracking option you choose, you'll need to provide your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN), tax filing status, and the exact amount of the refund shown on your 2021 return.
I know you want your money yesterday, but the IRS reminds us that the data on Where's My Refund? is updated just once a day, usually overnight, so checking repeatedly is not going get you any more information sooner.
Also remember that the IRS still is bogged down with a backlog of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic delays and the added work that Congress dropped on the agency. I know, that's the IRS' problem, but in reality, it's ours, too, since it means that in some (OK, many) instances, it's taking more than 21 days the IRS says is the refund issuing time frame.
3. Explore tax payment possibilities: When you filed your return (or extension) last week, you paid all the 2021 tax year debt you owed, right? If not, then you need to look at how to take care of any remaining balance. Now.
If you miscalculated and owe more tax than you paid, penalty and interest charges have been adding up for a week. You can stop that by getting the rest of what you owe to the U.S. Treasury now. The quickest of the many ways to pay your tax bill is to use one of the five electronic options.
If, however, you don't have the cash on hand or your credit cards are maxed out, look into setting up a payment plan with the IRS.
And even if you missed Tax Day specifically because you knew you owed, file a return now (even if you have to amend it later; more on this in #5) and use one of these options to pay at least some of your tax liability.
4. File away your 2021 tax material: You did a great job of gathering all the documents you needed to file your tax return. Now it's time to store them.
My earlier post with tax document record keeping suggestions is a good template to follow, even if I say so myself. The key record that everyone should keep forever is your actual Form 1040. Note, though, that this isn't just the 1040 itself, but all the supporting forms and schedules.
These official tax documents, either as paper or digital copies (or both if, like me, you're obsessive about documentation) are proof you met your annual tax-filing obligation. They also come in handy if you later find you need to file an amended return (again, more on this coming up in #5).
You also should keep supporting material — charitable receipts, business expense receipts, financial records, credit card statements, mileage records, etc. — that you used to fill out your return. That will help you show the IRS your work if it comes asking questions later.
How much later those inquiries are allowed helps determine how long you need to hand on to your tax (and other financial) records.
The standing smartass answer is forever, since technically the IRS can come asking questions any time it suspects a taxpayer committed fraud. But more realistically for most of us who do our best to get our tax returns right each year, the annual return statute of limitations is three years. Other time frames are detailed in my earlier record keeping template post.
5. Consider whether an amended return is necessary: In going through all those documents you used to file your taxes, you discovered a mistake. It could be a mistake that means you owe more than you showed on your return. Or it could be an overlooked tax break, meaning you cheated yourself out of some tax savings.
In many cases, it's worth it to file an amended return. Just to be sure, the IRS suggests you use its interactive assistant Should I File an Amended Return? In some cases, says the IRS, you might not need to submit Form 1040-X to correct your return.
No X-form is needed where the issue is a math error or where you forgot to attach a form or schedule. Normally, the IRS will correct the wrong addition, subtraction or multiplication amount and notify you by mail. Similarly, the agency will send a letter requesting any missing forms or schedules.
And if you're expecting a refund from your original filing (see #2), the IRS says don't file an amended return before that 1040 has been processed. But as mentioned earlier, patience. Your wait could be a bit longer than the 21-days-or-less the agency aims to meet.
You also might find these items of interest:
- 6 things that could delay your tax refund
- 5 tax moves to make if you missed Tax Day
- 5 reasons your tax refund this year might be smaller
- Tax refunds are nice, but savings provide a better pay-off