Tax refunds are a financial opportunity

The Internal Revenue Service expects about 75 percent of 147 million 2012 tax returns will qualify for a refund. Extension family resource specialist Elizabeth Kiss said people should consider using a refund to improve their financial situations before rushing to spend it.

A tax refund is often the largest single sum of money a taxpayer will have during a year. That’s why it is important to take time in deciding how to use it, Kiss said. For some people who have difficulty saving, a tax refund acts as a forced savings.

A tax refund can help people meet financial goals, such as paying off a credit card or loan, saving for a down payment for a more dependable car, or establishing or adding to an emergency fund for unexpected repairs and expenses.

A weekend getaway or family vacation could also be a goal, Kiss said. She said that having a goal in mind and being able to picture it can inspire saving. She said putting a picture of a goal on a refrigerator or bulletin board can act as a reminder.

Kiss also noted that a large refund is a sign that withholding exceeded a taxpayer’s liability. She said people may be better off trimming how much is withheld from their paychecks instead of continuing to provide an interest-free loan to the government.

“Saving is a choice, and an essential foundation for financial security,” she said.

Kiss also suggested carrying a small notebook to track expenses for at least a week, and possibly up to four weeks. Tracking expenses to review saving and spending habits from paycheck to paycheck and during billing cycles can be helpful in showing people where their money is going toward. That, in turn, can help people trim their discretionary spending and direct funds to bigger goals.

 

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