If you are not legally married as of the last day of the year and you don't have any dependents, you have one option when it comes to filing your federal income tax return: You are single for tax purposes. While Uncle Sam is going to take his fair share from your paycheck, there are ways to get a bigger refund check when tax time rolls around.
Adjust your withholding. When you went to work you probably had to fill out a Form W-4. This little form tells your boss how much money to withhold from your paycheck for stuff like federal income taxes, Social Security and Medicare. One easy way to ensure a fatter tax refund check is to have more money withheld from each paycheck. There are a couple of ways to make adjustments. Check the Single status in Box 3 and reduce the number of allowances you claim in Box 5. Claiming Single with 0 allowances will cause your boss to withhold at the highest rate. If you need more money taken out, you can designate a specific amount in Box 6. Sign and date your W-4 and turn it in. Check your paycheck to make sure your changes take affect.
Figure your federal tax return using both the standard deduction and itemized deductions, then file your return using the method that gives you the lowest tax obligation. The standard deduction method is easier to figure. If you're single your standard deduction for the 2012 tax year is $5,950. If your itemized deductions add up to more than $5,950 your taxable income goes down and your tax return goes up. Keep track of your deductible expenses, such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions and unreimbursed employee business expenses. Even small deductions can add up over the course of a year.
Fully fund your qualified retirement accounts, including your traditional individual retirement account, and take advantage of pre-tax benefits programs at work. Every dollar that goes into a pre-tax benefit program, such as a flexible spending account, is a dollar on which you don't have to pay taxes. Not only are you paying taxes on a lesser amount of money, but it might even drop you into a lower tax bracket. The less money you pay in taxes, the bigger your tax refund check will be.
- Any tax refund check you get represents payback of an interest-free loan made to the government. By withholding the proper amount of taxes from your paycheck, you'll get a smaller refund check, but you will have access to your money sooner.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.