NJ among the states with the highest tax refunds — good or bad news?
Are you banking on that sizeable tax refund check to help make some extravagant purchases?
According to an analysis from personal finance company SmartAsset, New Jersey comes in seventh place on a list of the states with the largest average tax refunds.
But that's not a ranking that should be celebrated. After all, it's called a "refund" because it was your money in the first place. You've essentially overpaid the government and let them hold on to it, tax-free, until tax season.
"Some people are very proud of that (refund), and they wait for it, for vacations or putting additions on the house or what have you," said Michelle Robinson, a financial professional in Brick. "But these ... are the same clients who ask me, 'Michelle, there's too much month at the end of my money. What do I do?'"
According to SmartAsset, research has shown that when "windfall recipients" receive their money, they tend to spend it "more freely."
Robinson said bringing in that money per paycheck, instead of letting the government withhold it and return it later on, could be a "game changer" for many households.
"Whose pocket do you want your money in?" said Robinson, who coaches New Jersey residents in the money game. "Do you want your money in the government's pocket for a year, and then only get the principal without even a thank-you note? Or would you like that money in your pocket throughout the year to do with whatever you wish?"
You can adjust what's withheld from each paycheck by submitting a new W-4 form to your employer. The later in the year you make that adjustment, the less of an impact it'll have on your return in 2019.
Using data from 2016, SmartAsset determined Garden State residents came away with an average refund of $2,943.
That's $10 less than sixth-place Mississippi, but the cash infusion doesn't go as far here in New Jersey. The analysis claims New Jersey's average refund covers less than two months of housing expenses. In Mississippi, a similar refund is worth more than four months of housing costs.
In Robinson's opinion, a refund of $1,000 or less is fine. You don't want to "dance close enough to that line" and have to owe.
At $3,133, Texas recorded the largest average refund in 2016. The lowest refund, $2,302, was recorded in Maine.
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