Three jars labeled “IRA,” “College,” and “Tax”

Each year millions of people get a tax refund. However, there are still millions who will owe taxes in the spring. If you are one of those people who typically end up owing money to Uncle Sam, here are a few ways that may help reduce your chances of having to pay.

Contribute more to your retirement

Reducing your gross income is one way to lower your taxes in the future. You can do this by contributing to your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan . The amount you contribute, up to a limit set by the IRS, will not be included in your Adjusted gross income or AGI when completing your returns.

Check with the IRS for annual contribution limits for individuals and catch-up contributions for those over age 55. You can also contribute to some individual retirement accounts (IRAs), depending on your age. Some or all of your contributions may be tax deductible, depending on your other retirement account activity and your income.

Set aside pre-tax dollars to cover medical bills

Participate in your employer-sponsored flexible spending account (FSA), if your employer offers one, or a Health Savings Account (HSA). If you think you’ll incur a lot of medical expenses during the year, these special accounts — often offered as employee benefits — allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for those expenses. The HSA is associated with a high-deductible insurance plan to help defray your out-of-pocket costs.

In addition to health care expenses, an FSA covers other non-medical expenses, such as child care. HSAs can be used to pay for doctor visits, prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines prescribed by a doctor for you, your spouse and your dependents. 

The IRS also details current FSA contribution limits as well as HSA limits and catch-up contributions. Check with your human resources representative to see if your employer offers one or both plans and how to contribute. You can contribute to one or both accounts.

Change your withholdings

One reason you may owe money to the IRS is you’re not withholding enough money — or pre-paying the IRS — from your paycheck. Withholding less means more take-home pay with each paycheck. However, it also increases your chances of owing money to the government at tax time. Use the IRS withholding calculator to help you figure out your federal income tax withholdings. It’s also a good tool to help you make sure your employer is withholding the correct amount from your pay. If not, update your Form W-4 with your employer.

Look for tax credits and deductions

Tax credits are a good way to help reduce the amount of your tax bill. Take time now to review your options for next year, in case there are tax credits you might have missed in your most recent filing. Credits go directly against taxes due, so don’t let them get by you!

Ask your tax advisor about itemizing your deductions this year and beyond. While the standard deduction is certainly easier, if your expenses in relevant categories are hefty, it may be better to itemize.

The advice provided is for informational purposes only. Contact a tax advisor for additional guidance. 

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