I'm 23 and 2018 is the first year that I have worked full-time. I began working full-time in May of 2017 and got back about $5,500 from that tax refund (state & federal).

I'd like to get a rough estimate of what my 2018 tax refund will be. Last year I worked for 6 1/2 months or about 54% of the year. If I simply add the missing 46% of 2017 to the 2017 tax return amount, would that be a good estimate for what my 2018 tax refund will be? That would be around $8,030 ($5,500 x 1.46). I realize that taxes aren't that simple but I would like an approximate number. My pay has not changed and I have no new loans or major purchases.

I've looked into using the online tax return calculators from sites of H&R Block and Turbotax but they ask too many questions that I don't know the answer to and I don't want to spend a significant amount of time trying to figure it out. My parents have done my taxes in previous years and I want to learn bout this so I can do them myself in the future.

If posting my YTD amounts for federal or state withholding would help, I wouldn't mind.


Estimated total income for 2018: $52,000

Estimated total federal withheld for 2018: $9,000

Estimated total state withheld for 2018: $2,500

Estimated total student loan interest paid for 2018: $700

Estimated total contributed to 401(k) for 2018: $1,600

I file individually, single, and not a dependent.

  • What will be your total income and the total federal/state amounts withheld for 2018? Are you filing individually?
    – Nosjack
    Nov 16, 2018 at 14:33
  • Withholding assumes an annual salary of (your paycheck amount) * (number of pay periods in a year). Your annual salary in 2017 was only 54% (roughly) of that, so your withholding was much higher than necessary, resulting in the large return. Expect a smaller return now that your 2018 withholding is based on a more accurate estimation of your annual salary.
    – chepner
    Nov 16, 2018 at 14:37
  • @Nosjack I edited my post for those numbers.
    – cet51
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:27
  • 1
    Assuming your federal taxable income is $40000 (your estimated income minus the $12,000 personal deduction), you're looking at a tax bill of around $4600, for a federal refund of $4400. Your estimated tax bill depends, obviously, on what state you live in.
    – chepner
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:46
  • 1
    Note re terminology: a tax RETURN is the form(s) you send to the government, the money you get back (if any) is a tax REFUND. In other words, when I've had a large tax return, it meant (in the days before efile) that I had to use a large envelope to hold all 15-20 pages. But the refund, alas, was nonexistent :-(
    – jamesqf
    Nov 16, 2018 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


The simplest method is to take your gross taxable pay (after retirement, medical, and other pre-tax deductions), and extrapolate that out to the whole year (e.g. multiplying a monthly paycheck by 12). If your pay is irregular, you might take an average of the months to date and use that to extrapolate. Be sure to include any one-off items like bonuses.

Then plug that number into an Income Tax Calculator, or use the brackets (you'll need to subtract exemptions and credits first) defined by the IRS Tax Tables to calculate your tax liability.

Then, use the same method you used for income to calculate your estimated withholding for the year. Subtract that from your tax liability to get your tax due. If the withholdings are greater than the tax liability, you can expect a tax refund.


Using the numbers you provided:

Estimated total income for 2018: $52,000

Estimated total federal and state withheld for 2018: $11,500

Your total taxable income would be $52,000 - $12,000 (standard deduction) = $40,000, and your total tax due would be $4,734 (using the IRA tax tables). Since you've withheld $9,000, you would get an expected refund of about $4,300.

  • I've updated my post with more financial type stuff that I think might be important :) I appreciate you taking the time for this!! You've helped a lot.
    – cet51
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:52

I'm going to add something that you did not ask -

enter image description here

This is what the tax table looks like. For a single person, you have the $12K standard deduction (as D noted) and a taxable $40,000.

Interesting to me, this is just over the line where rates change. In other words, the last $1300 is taxed at 22%, vs 12% for the amounts from $9K-$38.7K. This is the time to start to think about saving for retirement. It seems far off, but my wife and I started saving right out of college, and I was able to retire at 50. If that's not appealing to you, you can always keep working, but never worry about money.

I suggest you read up on how to invest, and if the numbers you offered are correct, $1300 to a traditional, pre-tax IRA, and $4200 to a Roth IRA. This will lead to a mix of both accounts which will benefit you in the future.

In response to OP's comments, I'll add - We have no details on your 401(k). If there is a company match, I'd recommend depositing to get the full match. If not, I'd use IRAs for retirement savings. Also, if there's a match and the 401(k) deduction is pushing you into the 12% bracket, I'd see if there is a Roth 401(k) option. There are many Q&A here that address IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), Roth 401(k), etc. In my opinion, ideally you are using pretax saving to avoid the higher, 22% bracket. And post-tax to fill Roth accounts at a 12% 'cost'.

  • That is actually some very important information. I appreciate your input! If I had put that last $1,300 into my 401(k) that is non taxable money right? so instead of only getting $1,014 (1300 x .78) in my bank accounts it would be the full $1,300 in my 401(k). Is that correct?
    – cet51
    Nov 16, 2018 at 16:38
  • Looking at it further, I believe the $1,600 already in my 401(k) covered what you just mentioned correct? And I believe the $700 of student loan interest paid is a deduction of taxable income. So after those, wouldn't my taxable income only be $40,000 - $1,600 - $700 = $37,700 ?
    – cet51
    Nov 16, 2018 at 16:42

The reason your tax return was fairly large in 2017 is because you only worked half the year. I would expect a much smaller return for this year because you worked the whole year.
Your tax withholdings are calculated on a per paycheck basis, as if that paycheck was your regular paycheck throughout the year. So assuming you get 26 paychecks of $2k, your employer withholds 1/26 the taxes on an annual income of $52k. Last year assuming you got 15 paychecks your employer would have also withheld 1/26 of the taxes on an annual income of $52k. But your income was only $30k.

  • I get paid weekly, so 52 paychecks a year of $1k for 2018 vs maybe 30 paychecks of $1k in 2017. I guess i'm not fully understanding what this actually means? Since I worked less in 2017 they were withholding more than they are in 2018?
    – cet51
    Nov 16, 2018 at 16:48
  • After looking at my last paystub for 2017 and most recent from 2018... 2017: federal withheld was $213 per check and state withheld was $53 a check. 2018: federal withheld is $214 per check and state withheld is $63 a check. Doesn't that mean they are withholding more? My overall amount with held this year so far is a couple thousand over the total withheld last year
    – cet51
    Nov 16, 2018 at 16:52
  • In both cases they were withholding as if your paycheck was the same for the whole year. so in both cases they withhold as if your income is $52k. That doesn't mean they withhold more they just don't withhold less.
    – xyious
    Nov 16, 2018 at 16:53
  • So they are withholding the same amount from each check, that is what you are saying right? Meaning since I've worked more this year the total amount overall withheld is higher which I can see on my paystubs. I guess i'm confused as to why it would be less, I apologize if i'm not picking up on something simple
    – cet51
    Nov 16, 2018 at 17:03
  • check out @JoeTaxpayer's answer. Any income over $38,700 is taxed at 22%. Obviously you wouldn't get there with an annual income of $30k. But your withholding is as if your income is $52k. So 14k/52 ~ 250. So each week about $250 of your income was taxed at 22% for ~$50 tax withholding. This year your withholding should match more closely to what you're actually going to have to pay in taxes, so your return should be lower.
    – xyious
    Nov 16, 2018 at 17:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .