I don't own a house, I'm not married (but I will be by next tax season), I have no stocks or bonds. Buying a new car and paying student loan interest was the only deductions I could put down. I work a job, pay my bills, and live a pretty ordinary life. This tax season, Turbo Tax says I owe the government $600+ and the state of Colorado $150+.

What can I do through out this year so that next year I don't owe a thing?

  • 1
    What are you claiming for exemptions?
    – keelerjr12
    Jan 30, 2015 at 4:37
  • I paid interest on my school loans and bought a new car. There were details about both of those events that went towards reducing how much I owed (according to TurboTax). Jan 30, 2015 at 6:19

4 Answers 4


You get back what you overpaid and owe what you underpaid. So the simple answer to your question is: Just pay more taxes during the year, whether through paycheck deductions or estimated tax payments or something. The easiest way to do this is to adjust your W-4 to decrease your number of exemptions and/or specify an additional amount to withhold.

By the way, it's better to owe a little when you file your taxes than to get a refund. When you get a refund, it means you overpaid during the year, so you are giving the government an interest-free loan and am only getting it back later -- money you shouldn't have had to pay in the first place. On the other hand, when you owe taxes (as long as it's not enough to trigger a penalty), you underpaid during the year and the government is giving you an interest-free loan until tax day.

  • +1 like my grandfather always said, don't complain about paying more on your taxes because it means you're making more money.
    – Rocky
    Jan 30, 2015 at 6:45
  • I'd rather be surprised with extra money going into my pocket than be surprised with an $800 bill. Do I simply need to talk to my employer about changing or re-submitting a W4? Or is there another protocol I need to follow? Jan 30, 2015 at 16:13
  • @CoreyOgburn: According to that logic, you would prefer to intentionally pre-pay to doctors, schools, utility companies, etc. much more than you owe over the year just so that they can "surprise" you by giving you money back next year which you should not have paid in the first place? Does that make sense? Yes, you can tell your employer you want to update your W-4 at any time.
    – user102008
    Jan 30, 2015 at 18:53
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    Wow, way to over simplify there. If they made me pay all year and at the end of the year told me what I should have been paying, like the government does, then probably. But they don't and the government doesn't operate like a normal business. So apples and oranges... Jan 30, 2015 at 18:56
  • 3
    @CoreyOgburn: The whole point of this question is that you know approximately what you should be paying -- by experience with past tax returns, you know that at the current rate of withholding you are paying a little less than you should (because you owe a little tax). And in this question you are asking how to adjust your withholding so that you get less money every paycheck so you can intentionally pay more tax than you should (and thus get a refund).
    – user102008
    Jan 30, 2015 at 20:14

Invest in an IRA, you can still do one for 2014 and for 2015 use your 401K if you have one. If low income you can get a savers credit.

If you simply want a refund change your W4 to read S-0 plus $50 and they will take from the chart and take $50 a payday you can get more of your money back if you have them take 100 a payday. If you were paid weekly you could get 5K that way as a interest free loan to the government, try 200 a week for a major refund you can brag about if you have friends.


Regarding getting married. The key date is December 31st. If you are married when the calendar years ends the IRS treats you as being married for the entire year.

Having to pay a small amount at the end of the year is fine. You can make fine tuning adjustments during the year by changing the number of allowances. Getting a huge refund is a loan to the government. Owing a lot of money may result in penalty.

The tax problem with getting married is that the withholding at the single rate for most of the year can be an issue when you file as married.

One way to avoid the underpayment penalty is to make sure you meet the safe harbor rules:

If you did not pay enough tax throughout the year, either through withholding or by making estimated tax payments, you may have to pay a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax. Generally, most taxpayers will avoid this penalty if they either owe less than $1,000 in tax after subtracting their withholding and estimated tax payments, or if they paid at least 90% of the tax for the current year or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the prior year, whichever is smaller. There are special >rules for farmers and fishermen, certain household employers and certain higher income >taxpayers. Please refer to Publication 505.

You will need to check the rules for high income tax payers to see if you fall under those rules.

The "100% of the tax shown on the return for the prior year" rule is proabably easiet to understand:

  • Look at both forms after you file your taxes in April 2015.
  • Look for your total tax, not what you owe or your refund amount, but your total tax.
  • Add them.
  • Make sure that all your withholding in 2015 exceed that total. Then even if you owe money in April 2016 you will avoid the penalty.

You will probably owe something, the question is what can you do so that you don't discover that when preparing your tax return after the year ended.

Generally, the best suggestion would be to calculate your allowance properly on the W4 you've submitted to your employer. In your case, if you had done the math right at the beginning of the year - your withholding would match your tax liability fairly well with a chance of a slight refund.

Since next year you're planning on getting married, getting it right with W4 for 2015 will probably be tricky, but once you're married - do that, based on the numbers for both of you.

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