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Why didn't I get a refund?

There are hundreds of reasons for someone to not have a refund this year. Here are some of the most common reasons that we have been seeing, and some solutions to many of them.


The number one reason is usually because your employer didn't withhold enough money throughout the year. Filling out a new W-4 with your employer can help fix this issue for future years, but it's too late to change it for last year. The best option in this case is to pay the tax by April 15th, and prevent the issue from happening again. Also, couples who got married in the year, or who changed job status may want to consider a few points on our W-4 page.

If you received a 1099-MISC you should see our 1099 page.

If after doing your taxes and later get a notice that you won't be getting part of it, it can be for several reasons. You may not get all of your refund if you owe certain past-due amounts, such as federal tax, state tax, some types of  student loans, or child support. The IRS and your state may withhold your refund in order to pay the past due accounts. You can contact Financial Management Service (FMS) toll-free at 800-304-3107 if you think there is any reason you won't be receiving part of your refund. 

If you are or were unemployed, you should keep in mind that unemployment compensation is taxable. There are special considerations for unemployment income, but you should consider having the employment department withhold some of your check for both federal and state tax. Expect to see a 1099-G in the mail at the end of the year.

If you run a business, you may not get a refund because it may look as if you made far more money than you really did. The most common case is when people forget what their expenses were through the year, and they aren't getting the deductions they are entitled to.  Good record keeping is the best way to prevent this. Also, there is payroll tax to consider, and municipality tax, and specialty tax. You should be talking with a tax professional every year, and possibly every quarter, to make sure you are still on track for your year end goals.  In addition, if you are self employed, you should remember that the state and federal governments don't want their taxes paid in a single lump sum, but rather they want it paid quarterly, that is, four times per year with specific due dates. Having an accountant, or a tax professional on hand is highly recommended in this case. They can help you determine when to pay, how much to pay, and where to send the payments.


If you had investments last year that brought you money, like stocks, bond, CDs, loans etc, you should remember that this type of income almost never has withholding on it to pay income tax that you will own at the end of the year. Keep and eye on these investments and if you receive a large payout from one or many, you should plan to pay a little more taxes. You can have your employer increase your withholding using a new W-4 if you know the payout is in the coming year. You can send in an extra payment to the federal and state revenue departments if you'd rather make a lump payment, or you can simply wait until the end of the year and pay the amount at the end. You can expect either a 1099-INT and/or a 1099-DIV and/or a 1099-B at the end of the year.

If you are retired and drawing either social security or retirement savings, you should remember that this income is taxable in some form, and at different levels for a multitude of reasons. Many retirement accounts allow for withholding to pay taxes to both federal and state, and you should consider having these set to your needs, similar to filling out a W-4 for an employer. Social security is taxable by the federal government at different levels, depending on how much money you made during the year, and how you made that money. Things can get quite complicated in this case, and you might want to get some help from a professional. You can expect either an SSA-1099 and/or 1099-R at the end of the year. 
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