Taxing times: Experts say avoid getting a refund -- but if you do, save it or use to pay down debt

Mar 14, 2012

When it comes to a tax refund this year, think zero. It may seem nice to get a check from the government every year, but two Kansas State University financial management experts say that a person's tax liability should be as close to zero as possible.

"This means that when you file your tax return that you do not owe any taxes and you do not get a refund -- remember that the IRS is not a savings account," said Kristy Archuleta, co-director of the Financial Planning Clinic, a part of the School of Family Studies and Human Services in the College of . Archuleta is an assistant professor of family studies and human services.

"If you receive a large , you've loaned the government the use of your money throughout the year interest free," said Jodi Kaus, director of the university's Powercat Financial Counseling, a service for students.

Both Archuleta and Kaus said receiving a major tax refund means an individual needs to adjust his or her W-4, a form that tells an employer how much to deduct from each paycheck. The deducted amount is called the withholding, and by minimizing this amount, a person can increase his or her cash flow.

A W-4 form is typically one of the first documents an employee fills out in a . Kaus said if a person's financial situation changes, the form can be updated by contacting the human resources department at his or her place of employment.

In addition to reviewing withholdings, Kaus said people should also compare itemized versus standardized tax deductions. Itemized deductions are those that people add up on their own, whereas a standardized deduction is a lump sum that the government allows them to take.

"When you file your taxes, you can choose between itemized and standard deductions," she said. "You should use whichever deduction is greater. Itemizing your deductions can take time, but it can be worth it. Do your research to make sure you take every deduction allowed."

Archuleta agrees. She says it's important to always maximize the deductions and credits available. Some common tax deductions include tuition and fees, student loan interest, mortgage interest, charitable donations and medical expenses, if they are more than 7.5 percent of someone's adjusted gross income.

If a tax refund is received, the money can be used to achieve several different financial goals. However, whatever the money is used for, Archuleta advises people to be deliberate in their financial decision-making.

"Don't blow a tax refund on unnecessary items," she said. "Use it to build an emergency fund or pay down debt, especially high-interest debt. It can also be used for savings by contributing to a long-term investment tool, such as a Roth IRA for retirement or a 529 plan for a child's education fund. The money can even be saved for a large ticket item you are planning to purchase."

Kaus said students should also use their tax refund to start an emergency savings account or to pay down debt, especially if they have high interest credit card debt or student loans.

"If a student has unsubsidized federal student loans, an income tax refund could go toward paying the accumulated interest on those loans now, so that the interest doesn't get capitalized and added to the principal at the end, causing interest to accrue on interest," she said.

Explore further: Study looks at stock market performance of polarizing brands

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Refunds don't always help lower-income taxpayers

May 09, 2011

Getting a tax refund from the federal government at the end of the year may not always be the best option for lower-income populations, according to the research from Harris School economist Damon Jones.

Early income-tax filing not the best deal

Dec 13, 2010

The early bird doesn't always get the worm. Moreover, said a consumer-finance expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, being in a hurry to file your federal income tax forms in pursuit of a ...

Recommended for you

Which foods may cost you more due to Calif. drought

14 hours ago

With California experiencing one of its worst droughts on record, grocery shoppers across the country can expect to see a short supply of certain fruits and vegetables in stores, and to pay higher prices ...

Performance measures for CEOs vary greatly, study finds

Apr 16, 2014

As companies file their annual proxy statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this spring, a new study by Rice University and Cornell University shows just how S&P 500 companies have ...

Investment helps keep transport up to speed

Apr 16, 2014

Greater investment in education and training for employees will be required to meet the future needs of the transport and logistics industry, according to recent reports by Monash University researchers.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ryggesogn2
5 / 5 (2) Mar 25, 2012
If paying down debt is good for individuals, why not the govt?
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Mar 26, 2012
Under the Republican/Libertarian fiscal plan, the idea is to "starve the beast of big government" through bankrupting the nation.

The Repubican/ Libertarian plan is treason of course.

But treason's party is the Libertarin party.

Tax Cuts And 'Starving The Beast'
Bruce Bartlett, 05.07.10, 06:00 AM EDT
The most pernicious fiscal doctrine in history.

http://www.forbes...ett.html

I believe that to a large extent our current budgetary problems stem from the widespread adoption of an idea by Republicans in the 1970s called "starve the beast." It says that the best, perhaps only, way of reducing government spending is by reducing taxes. While a plausible strategy at the time it was formulated, STB became a substitute for serious budget control efforts

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...