taxes

Will you have to pay back your tax credit?

"If you're really worried about owing taxes, do a mock tax return," says Cindy Hockenberry, research coordinator with the National Association of Tax Professionals in Appleton, Wis. "All the forms are available at the IRS Web site. Look at what your tax liability is based on your income and withholding so far this year. If you're in a deficit situation, you can easily pay in some additional before the end of the year."

There are two ways to make additional payroll tax contributions. The easiest is to submit a new W-4 and change your allowances so that more will be withheld. To make sure the amount you're having taken out is correct, use the IRS' online withholding calculator.

The problem here, says Hockenberry, is that depending on how many pay periods you have left, it may not be a lot and it might not cover your withholding shortfall.

If that's the case, you also can ask your employer to take -- in addition to the amount based on your exemptions -- a specific dollar amount from your last few paychecks of 2009. You enter that figure on line 6 of the W-4.

Technically, you can make your W-4 changes as often as you like (or until your payroll administrator gets fed up with you!). Some companies, however, might have a cutoff date for changes, particularly at the end of the year, so check soon about your employer's procedures if you want to submit new withholding paperwork.

If you don't have time to make the changes or don't want to give up some cash this coming holiday season, but you know you'll owe Uncle Sam next filing season, you have another option. Hockenberry suggests you can start saving money now to pay your IRS bill when you file.

But on the other end of the payroll tax spectrum, if you usually withhold too much as a way of forced savings and are affected by the Making Work Pay credit, you'll probably still get a refund next filing season. It just will be a bit less than you hoped.

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