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Color of Money: Tax-refund recipients respond to critics: 'Stop shaming me'

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- The talk of this tax season is that so many people are furious that their refunds are lower than usual because of major changes to the tax code.

But while people are focused on missing the money they expect from their tax returns, it's a good time to discuss tax planning in general. This leads to the question: Should you habitually get a refund in the first place?

Many tax pros advise against it. Better for employees to adjust their paycheck withholdings in order to receive their money throughout the year, they recommend.

Self-appointed experts have also weighed in on the issue.

"Set the withholding for a $10 refund and automatically invest the difference in a no-load mutual fund," one reader wanted me to tell folks.

Other readers offer similar advice to regular refund recipients. Here's a sampling of comments on a recent column in which I urged people to love their refund less.

 

-- "If you overpay, you're crazy."

-- "I know people who use their withholding as a savings plan. With the ease of direct deposit, why should saving a small amount from your paycheck be so hard?"

-- "When you get a refund, that means you have not only given up use of some of your own money for the entire previous year, but you loaned it to the government, interest-free."

This year, it's likely that many people didn't notice that they got a slight increase in their regular paychecks due to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This, in turn, impacted their typical and coveted refund, as this money was spread throughout the year instead of presented in a lump sum. At the same time, certain tax deductions vanished, and many folks are just starting to realize how that affected their refund amount, as well.

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