Johnston: Tax surprise? Check your withholding

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

This quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin and rings especially true around this time of the year.

As we all know, April 15 is the filing deadline for taxes every year.

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If you are one of the many folks who have filed their taxes early, you may have gotten a surprise this year.

Business Insider reports the average refund issued in Kentucky in 2018 was $2,648, and early IRS data indicates nationwide refunds may be down in 2019.

This is the first tax season since federal tax law changes went into effect, which may mean bigger or smaller refunds than normal if taxpayers did not adjust their withholdings.

However, receiving less than expected might be a savvy financial strategy. Returns are provided when a taxpayer withholds too much from paychecks,  which amounts to an interest-free loan to the government.

If you have the discipline to save that money from each paycheck instead of paying it in taxes, you could be earning returns on your investments all year long.

The IRS offers a withholding calculator for a quick “paycheck checkup” at

The site also offers instructions for changing your withholding if needed. Make sure to take that ‘extra’ money on each paycheck and put it toward your financial goals.

If you’re among the 1.5 million Kentuckians who receive a tax refund, you have a choice to make. How will you use the money you receive back from the government?

Consider the following options to help reach your financial goals:

Contribute to emergency savings. Many of us do not have enough money saved in the event of job loss, sickness or other unexpected events that prevent us from working.

Financial experts recommend having at least three to six months of your income saved to help you work through a financial hardship.

This fund can also help you cover unexpected or emergency household repairs.

Reduce or eliminate debt. Paying off high-interest debt as quickly as possible is a financial win-win because it reduces the principal on your loan and lowers your future interest payments.

Invest in your future. Investing in your  future is always a wise move as it will continue to guarantee your future financial stability.

You could use your return to start or add a college savings fund for your children or start or add to your retirement account.

Invest in your home. Consider purchases that allow you to make improvements that add to the resale value of your vehicle or home or home improvements that lower your energy costs.

For more information on financial education and goal setting, contact the Clark County Extension Office.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at