Approximately 75% of Americans are receiving an average of $3,000 in tax refunds this year, according to CNN. And while most refunds are delivered pretty quickly, in less than 21 days after you file, you may be curious about how to figure out what you will receive.
To figure out your return, you’ll need your Social Security number, investment and employment income statements, as well as loan information like your mortgage. The IRS provides a handy checklist here. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to determine how much you will receive. Page 6 shows you how to quickly track your refund.
1. Check for deductions
Beyond what’s listed on the IRS site, you may also be able to deduct expenses for charity work, job search, moving, some medical, and even the cost of school supplies if you are a teacher, according to Mic.
You can also still make a contribution to your IRA for 2017 until April 17, according to CNN. If you are under age 50 the max you can contribute is $5,500. Those over age 50 can contribute up to $6,500. Other deductions may include property taxes, gambling losses, and even work-related mileage.
Next: Deductions are nice, but credits are better.
2. Don’t forget about credits
Credits can really lower your tax bill and fatten your return. Some credits to consider include child and dependent care expenses. You can mark off up to $1,050 for one child under age 13 or double the amount if you are marking off two, CNBC reports. Also, don’t forget about taking a saver’s credit if you added up to $2,000 in your IRA or 401k. The saver’s credit allows you to take up to 50% of whatever you contributed.
If you have a kid in college, you can take up to $2,500 in an American opportunity tax credit, according to CNBC. You may also deduct up to $4,000 for books and supplies too.
Next: DIY your taxes.
3. Use your 1040 form
It’s not the optimal way to calculate your refund, but you can determine how much you’ll get back using a 1040 and a calculator. Using the paperwork you previously gathered, go through the form and add information to the form. You can complete the form online too, to avoid having to manually write it in if you prefer.
Next: Do an online estimation.
4. Check out online calculators
You could use a free tax calculator if you want to take it one step beyond the DIY experience. Do a quick estimation using TaxSlayer or Tax Caster. You typically need general information like income status, wages and withholdings, as well as credits and deductions. Like tax software, tax estimation calculators are pretty intuitive and self-explanatory so just follow the prompts to arrive at an estimation.
Next: Consider tax software.
5. Try tax software
With a slew of software options on the market, how do you determine which one to use? Some free software programs include IRS Free File if you made less than $66,000, Tax Act with a 1040EZ or Credit Karma Tax. TurboTax is considered to be one of the easier programs to use, according to Nerdwallet. And Tax Slayer and H&R Block offer programs for those on a budget.
Next: Search for your refund online.
6. Do a quick refund search
You can use the IRS’s tool called “Where’s my refund?” to help you estimate when your refund could arrive. If you are tracking your refund using your mobile device you’ll need to download the IRS2Go app.
Track your refund using your Social Security number, filing status, and the specific anticipated refund amount. Use a secure connection to avoid having your personal information from being hacked.
Next: Address any issues.
7. Review outstanding debts or issues
While you may be excited to enjoy the bounty from your tax refund, you may run into issues if you still owe the IRS on a previous debt, defaulted on student loans or your tax situation changed. Also, your refund may be hindered if you owe child support.
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