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Give Withholding and Payments a Check-up to Avoid a Tax Surprise

2013 will hold some unpleasant tax surprises for many taxpayers simply because of the increased long-term capital gains tax rates, the ordinary income tax rates, and the imposition of two new taxes as part of the Affordable Care Act, including a new 3.8% surtax on net investment income and an additional 0.9% payroll and self-employed health insurance tax.

Other factors can also have an impact on the results of your tax return. These include life events such as marriage, birth, or adoption of a child; divorce or separation; the death of a spouse; a new job; a bonus; or a spouse going to work.

You may have sold a business, real estate, stocks, or other assets that will produce a one-time increase in income.

So, if you have a substantial increase in tax as the result of any of the above or other events, it may be wise to review your withholding and/or estimated tax payments to ensure you have set aside funds for the increase in taxes and have paid in enough in advance to avoid or minimize an underpayment penalty.

Generally if you have not paid evenly throughout the year withholding and estimated taxes, so that they will equal 90% of your tax liability for the year or 100% of the prior year’s liability (110% if your income is over $150,000), you may be subject to an underpayment penalty for the year. This office can project your 2013 tax liability to prepare you for your tax liability and so you can either adjust your withholding or make estimated tax payments to minimize penalties. If you are already set up to pay estimated tax, revising the remaining payment vouchers may be appropriate.

If a potential large tax liability is discovered early enough, your withholding for the rest of the year can be adjusted. Withholding is treated as deposited ratably over the course of the year even if paid towards the end of the year, which helps mitigate underpayment penalties where you are underpaid in the earlier quarters.