How to Get My Tax Return Close to Zero

Owing money to the U.S. Treasury can be a bummer.

Owing money to the U.S. Treasury can be a bummer.

Figuring that you owe a big chunk of money when it comes time to file your returns can be a blow to the heart, the head and the pocketbook. If you want to get your tax liability close to zero during filing season, you must plan and calculate at the start of the tax year.

Get together your tax data. You'll need past paystubs and tax returns, retirement plan and health savings plan information.

Find a tax withholding calculator. The Internal Revenue Service website offers such a tool, as do some personal finance sites.

Plug in the required data. In addition to employee and non-employee income estimates, you will need to input retirement plan and health savings plan contributions, tax withholding amounts and even unemployment compensation. The IRS calculator also requires you to estimate deductions such as medical and dental expenses, if you plan to itemize.

View the income tax figure on the resulting screen. Divide that figure by the number of pay dates that remain in the current year. Enter the result on Line 6 of Form W-4 and submit the new W-4 to the payroll department. Your paycheck withholding will increase by the specified amount each pay period, leaving you with a tax liability close to zero at filing time.

Items you will need

  • Form W-4

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About the Author

D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.

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