If you want to find out why your tax refund has gone down or you owe taxes this year, you can do a side-by-side comparison of this year’s tax return compared to last year’s tax return. Grab your PDF copy or paper copy of both this year’s tax return and last year’s tax return. Compare them page for page or split your screen for two side-by-side PDF copies.
As you begin comparing, keep in mind the IRS changes some of the information on the lines of the tax return each year, so you’re not doing a line-by-line comparison. Instead, look for bolded words on the first page of your tax return for each of the years you are comparing. Look for the words:
- total income,
- adjusted gross income,
- standard deduction or itemized deductions, and
- taxable income
How does this information compare? If the trend is more income, regardless of the source, more income generally means more tax to pay, which could lower your refund.
On page two, look for bolded words including:
- total tax,
- total other payments and refundable credits, and
- total payments.
Pay special attention to lines 17 – 23, especially if you have dependents on your tax return.
Also, look closely at your total tax and total payments. How much is your total tax this year vs. last year? How much were your total payments (this means how much you paid all year long)?
There are some strategies you may employ to increase your refund. See this article on "How do I increase my refund".