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I Almost Never Get a Tax Refund. Here’s Why I’m More Than OK With That

Woman sorting through mail at her mailbox.

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At this point, we’re deep in the throes of tax season, which means a fair number of filers may have already seen their refunds hit their bank accounts. The IRS reports that as of Feb. 9, the average tax refund issued this season amounted to $1,741.

But I’m not expecting money back from the IRS when I finish my taxes this year. In fact, most years, I inevitably end up owing the IRS some money. But here’s why that doesn’t bother me at all.

A tax refund isn’t free money

I’ve seen friends of mine jump for joy over getting a tax refund. But one misconception about tax refunds is that they constitute free money from the IRS.

They don’t.

When the IRS issues you a refund, it’s simply returning money of yours that you were entitled to all along. Only instead of collecting that money as you earned it, you let the IRS borrow it interest-free. Boo.

The main reason I’m OK with a refund is that I don’t like the idea of letting the IRS sit on my money when I’m entitled to it. So even though having to write a check during tax season is annoying, to me, it’s still better than having to wait months to get my hands on the income I went out and earned.

Making sure I’m not in a jam

I’ll admit that the first time I wound up having to write the IRS a check during tax season, it came as a bit of a shock — especially since it was not a small amount and it truly caught me off guard. That was a long time ago, though, and I’ve since learned from my mistake.

See, a big reason I owed that check back in the day was that I’d gone freelance and therefore didn’t have taxes withheld from my earnings during the year. As such, it was on me to estimate my quarterly tax payments and hope for the best. Only that year, my estimates were way off.

Since then, I’ve changed my ways and signed on to work with an accountant. Now, I have a professional who helps me calculate my quarterly tax payments so they’re more accurate.

Even so, though, I do tend to owe the IRS money when I file my taxes because my income tends to vary from month to month, as well as from year to year. So what I now do is set aside an extra portion of my income every month — on top of what I’m submitting in estimated tax payment form — and stick it into a savings account earmarked for the IRS. That way, if I learn in April that I owe the agency money, I simply raid that account instead of having to scramble to come up with the cash.

The reason I like this system so much more than getting a refund is that this way, I’m earning interest in my savings account on money that’s technically earmarked for the IRS. If I were to pay more in tax and get a refund, I wouldn’t be able to earn that interest, since the IRS isn’t going to give it to me. So the way I see it, by paying the IRS during tax season, I’m still coming out ahead financially.

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