On the other hand, if you received a large refund on last year's return, you made an interest-free loan to the government which is something you may want to avoid this year. If that happened, you should consider reducing the amount of withholding taken from your salary and/or the amount of estimated tax payments you make.
Here are some pointers to keep you on even keel when it comes to estimated taxes.
Basic rules. There is no estimated tax underpayment penalty for the 2018 tax year if the total tax on your return reduced by withholding (but not by estimated tax payments) is less than $1,000. If the amount owed on an individual income tax return comes to $1,000 or more after subtracting withheld tax, the estimated tax underpayment penalty generally will not apply if your "required annual payment" (i.e., the amount that must be prepaid during the year in the form of withheld tax and estimated tax payments) equals at least the smaller of two amounts:
- 90% of your tax bill for 2018, or
- 100% of your tax bill for 2017.
A tougher rule applies if your adjusted gross income for 2017 exceeded $150,000 ($75,000 for married persons filing a separate return). During 2018, to avoid the underpayment penalty, you must prepay the smaller of 90% of the tax for 2018, or110% of the tax for 2017.
The IRS can waive an underpayment penalty if you did not make the payment because of a casualty, disaster, or other unusual circumstance, and it would be inequitable to impose the penalty. The penalty also can be waived for reasonable cause during the first two years after you retire (after reaching age 62) or become disabled.
It is a pay-as-you-go system. In general, one-quarter of your required annual payment must be paid by April 15, 2019, June 15, 2019, September 15, 2019, and January 15, 2020. Tax withheld from your salary is treated as an estimated tax payment, and an equal part of withheld tax generally is treated as paid on each installment date.
You may be able to make smaller payments under the annualized income method, which is useful to people whose income flow is not uniform over the year, perhaps because of a seasonal business. You may also want to use the annualized income method if a significant portion of your income comes from capital gains on the sale of securities which you sell at various times during the year.
Time for a checkup. Although you now know what your 2018 tax bill came to, you probably do not quite know what your 2019 tax will be. While it cannot be predicted with absolute certainty, your accountant can project what your 2019 tax will be based on your financial picture thus far, as well as on events you anticipate will occur and transactions you anticipate finalizing in the balance of this year. It would be a good idea for you and your accountant to get together well in advance of the next estimated tax installment to see how your payments are tracking and make any necessary adjustments to your wage withholding and/or estimated tax payments. It is possible a review of your situation could determine you are withholding too much rather than too little.
You and your accountant should also review whether changes in your personal or financial situation require a change in estimated tax payments or withholding. Mike McVay, Tax Accountant offers quarterly check-up so you don't have year end surprises.
Mike McVay, Accountant - 850-725-5696 Mike@MikeMcVay.com