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I worked for 3 companies in two states. I moved to my current company on Dec 1, 2018. I got bonuses and sign-on bonus from all 3 companies (although I returned the sign-on bonus to one because I left earlier than a year).

I am calculating my tax return for 2018. When I add my 3rd company's W2, my refund is decreased, possibly because the bonuses put me in a higher salary bracket. I think this is unfair and might not be a wise filing.

Can I skip reporting this W2 this year and defer it to next year? Can we do such deferrals on tax returns to balance our pay? Any advice to maximize my return would be appreciated.

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No. It is what it is. There is very little you can do once Dec 31 has passed. If you are able to deduct a deposit into an IRA, that's an option. Short of that, there's no choice to simply claim income in the next year.

  • deduct a deposit you mean having some pre-tax payments from company like 401K? – Tina J Feb 9 at 22:01
  • Well, it’s already 2019, The only thing you can do after the end of the year is deduct an IRA deposit if you are eligible up until April 15. – JoeTaxpayer Feb 9 at 23:12
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    @JoeTaxpayer, HSA contributions as well up to 15 April, if OP is eligible for that, too. – R. Hamilton Feb 11 at 16:46
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You earned the income in 2018 so you need to report it in 2018. You can't defer the income to a year where you have less income to reduce the marginal tax rate.

You can look for deductions (though it would generally be easier to have done so in 2018 rather than waiting until 2019). If you are eligible to contribute to a deductible IRA, you could do so now for 2018 and deduct the contribution in your 2018 taxes for example. Of course, whether it makes more sense to contribute to a deductible IRA or a Roth IRA will depend on your particular circumstances.

  • ummm, you mean reserving some pre-tax deductions like 401K? – Tina J Feb 9 at 22:00
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    @TinaJ - 401(k) contributions would have needed to be made in 2018 to be deductible in 2018. You can (assuming you haven't already contributed) make a 2018 tax year contribution to an IRA until 4/15/2019 and deduct that from your 2018 taxes. – Justin Cave Feb 9 at 22:03
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    @TinaJ - Yes. It's an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Broadly, there are two types. For a "regular" IRA, contributions are tax deductible when they are made but earnings are taxed when they are withdrawn (much like a 401(k)). For a Roth IRA, contributions are not deductible but earnings are tax free when they are withdrawn. There are various requirements and phase-outs for how much you can contribute and deduct. – Justin Cave Feb 9 at 22:08
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    @TinaJ - No. You'd need to open a dedicated IRA account. Your bank can likely open an IRA, close the CDs, and transfer the money to your IRA. You could then buy CDs in your IRA (though you would generally want to invest in something a bit riskier than CDs in an IRA since you likely have many years before retirement). – Justin Cave Feb 9 at 22:43
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    @TinaJ - There are other allowed reasons to withdraw from an IRA without penalty but, yes, the intent of an Individual Retirement Account is that you are saving for retirement. Not sure why you shouldn't bother unless you've already fully funded your retirement. – Justin Cave Feb 9 at 23:32
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Please, please, please tell us that you aren't actually considering not reporting the wages from your third job on your tax returns because it results in a smaller tax refund. The W2s that you received from your employers are multipart forms marked Copy B, Copy C, Copy 1, etc, and guess what, Copy A, which you never get to see is not saved in the employer's files as a record of what was paid to you. No, Copy A is sent to the IRS and so it already knows that you received the wages reported thereon (and also how much tax was withheld). If you do choose not to report some wages on Form 1040 at all, your return will likely be "accepted" because the initial checking is simply an arithmetic check; did you make any numerical errors in filling out things like "Enter the sum of Lines 12, 13, and 14 here" based on what you wrote on Lines 12, 13, and 14? A refund check might also be issued. But, later in the year, the IRS will be checking your return against all those Copies A of your W2 forms that it has (ditto Forms 1099-INT and 1099-DIV etc) and will discover that you didn't include one of your W2 forms at all. At this point, you will get a letter from the IRS about the matter, demanding a return of part of the refund that you claimed (because you claimed a larger refund than you were entitled to) and possibly assessing interest and/or penalties. TL;DNR version: don't do it.

Actually, what you want to do is not to try to find ways to maximize your tax refund but instead try to find ways to minimize the tax that you pay (the "bottom line" of Form 1040). A tax refund merely means that too much money was withheld, and if you would like to get a larger refund for 2019 than you got for 2017 (or will be getting for 2018), there is a very simple stratagem. Just file a new Form W4 with your employer asking that more money (say $100) be withheld from your pay each month and sent to the IRS as additional income tax, and voila', you will get a larger refund in 2020 after you file your 2019 return. You will have, in effect, made an interest-free loan to the US Government (and the nation thanks you for your patriotic spirit) for the ineffable pleasure of receiving a large tax refund. What you ought to be doing is thinking of ways of reducing what is due from you for 2018 taxes (and yes, this too will increase your tax refund for 2018). As the answers from Justin Cave and JoeTaxpayer say, about the only option is to fund a Traditional IRA for 2018 which is not appealing to you at all as per your comments on those answers. So, do nothing with regard to IRAs, fill out your Form 1040 accurately, including all the W2s for 2018, and accept the smaller tax refund for 2018. Whether you wish to cuss out the Tax Jobs and Cuts Act of 2017 which took effect in 2018 and which is causing all these problems for you while doing so is up to you.

  • No I didn't plan to do that. I was just asking. If I fund an IRA for X amount, does it have same effect of having X less salary?! Or the effect is much less on tax refund? – Tina J Feb 11 at 4:54

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