A losing proposition: Letting the IRS hold your money

It's that time of year again when some tax preparers fill your television with commercials touting "big refunds."

While a large tax refund may sound like a good deal, keep in mind that a refund is your money. The only reason you get a refund is that you paid more taxes to the government than you actually owed.

The larger the refund you receive when you file your tax return, the more of your money you have placed in the hands of the government throughout the year. The government doesn't pay interest on your refund. If you reduce your withholdings during the year and invest the savings, you'll come out ahead.

Some people view over-withholding as a form of forced savings. They don't believe they have the discipline to save if they receive a larger paycheck every pay period. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan or other contributory retirement plan, consider having the difference deposited directly into your retirement account rather than letting the government hold your money.

If you're expecting a large refund this year, consider paying a visit to your employer's payroll department and provide a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, reducing the amount of taxes to withhold during 2012. Then put that extra take-home pay to work for you in a productive investment vehicle.

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