How to Estimate a Tax Refund by Using Pay Stubs

How to Estimate a Tax Refund by Using Pay Stubs
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Your pay stubs contain much of the information used to generate the Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, that is submitted with your annual tax return. Pay stubs list your wages or salary, leave totals, taxes and deductions, including those made before taxes. Your pay stub also lists year-to-date total for all dollar amounts and information about you and your employer. You will need an IRS individual income tax return form, either paper or electronic, to estimate your tax refund.

Locate the year-to-date total for your wages on your final pay stub. It may list your wages for the period the pay stub covers, as well as the year-to-date wages. Wages may be separated as federal, FICA and Medicare, but a year-to-date total should also be listed.

Enter your year-to-date wages on line 1 of the income section of Form 1040EZ and complete lines 2 through 5 of the form to arrive at the amount of your taxable income.

Find the year-to-date total of the federal income taxes you paid and enter that amount on line 1 of the income tax return form. This amount is usually in a section of the pay stub for year-to-date withholdings and deductions from your wages.

Complete the worksheet on the back of the tax form to take the “Making Work Pay” credit and enter the calculation result on line 8 of the form. You may qualify for this credit if you have income earned from work to report.

Calculate your earned income credit, or EIC, and the amounts on lines 9a and 9b. Read the information on page 13 of the Form 1040EZ instruction booklet to determine if you are eligible for the EIC and use the worksheet provided. The EIC tables are located in form instruction booklet.

Follow the instructions for lines 10 and 11 to total your payments and credits and to determine the amount of tax you owe, which is based on the taxable income amount you listed on line 6. The tax tables are located in the form instructions.

Find your estimated tax refund by subtracting line 11 from line 10, if line 10 is the larger of the two. If line 11 is larger than line 10, you may owe money to the Internal Revenue Service.


  • Total the figures in the pay stubs that you have if you do not have a final pay stub and arrive at close estimates for the dollar amounts you need to complete the tax return form.

    You cannot use Form 1040EZ if you received more than $1,500 in earned income interest.

    You must calculate your deduction using the worksheet on the back of Form 1040EZ if someone can claim you or your spouse, if you are filing a joint return, as a dependent.

    If you itemize deductions or have other complex financial information, you might be required to Form 1040 or 1040A.

    Use your pay stubs to estimate your state tax refund after completing the federal form.

    Use one of the free, online tax calculators to estimate your tax refund.