Maximize Your Refund: Easy Steps for Estimating Your Tax Return

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Written By kevin

A financial strategist with a knack for demystifying taxes and insurance, Kevin distills complex concepts into actionable advice.

Getting a sizable tax refund feels great, but it means you’ve been essentially giving the government an interest-free loan all year long. It’s better to correctly estimate your refund and adjust your withholding to maximize cash flow. This article outlines key strategies to calculate refunds more precisely.

Review Last Year’s Tax Return

The best place to start is examining your previous year’s tax return. Compare the total tax liability to the amount that was withheld over the year. The difference is your refund amount.

Some key figures to note:

  • Total income – Did your income change substantially? A change in jobs or new sources of income can impact taxes owed.
  • Taxable income – This factors in deductions and is used to calculate tax liability.
  • Total tax – The amount of federal income tax owed before credits.
  • Tax withheld – The amount that was withheld from your paycheck and remitted to the IRS throughout the year.


 Total Income $55,000
 Taxable Income $47,500
 Total Tax $5,279
 Tax Withheld $6,000

This person received a $721 refund because they overpaid taxes by that amount due to excess withholding.

Estimate Current Year Tax Liability

Next, estimate your current year tax liability using IRS tax brackets. Determine which tax bracket you fall under for your filing status and projected taxable income.

Remember to account for changes in your tax situation like increases in the standard deduction.

Example for 2024:

Filing Status Single
Taxable Income $50,000
Tax Bracket 22%
Tax Liability 22% of $50,000 = $11,000

Compare Withholding to Estimated Liability

To optimize cash flow, you want your tax withholding to closely match expected liability. Log in to your payroll portal or use IRS Form W-4 to determine federal tax withheld from your paycheck.

Compare this to your estimated tax liability for the year. The closer they match, the lower your refund or amount owed will be. Adjust your W-4 allowances if needed.


Estimated Tax $11,000
Annual Withholding $10,000
Shortfall $1,000

This person needs to adjust their W-4 to increase withholding by $1,000 to minimize a balance due.


Carefully estimating your tax liability and withholding can save money over the year and prevent refund surprises. Use your prior year tax return as a baseline, account for any changes, and compare to current withholding rates. Adjust as needed and check back if your situation changes further.