The federal income tax was established by the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution and is the law of the land. The Internal Revenue Service is the federal agency that is mandated with the task of collecting taxes on income, and the IRS considers all income to be taxable unless it is specifically exempted from taxes by federal law. It is possible to legally get a refund on all of the federal income taxes you have paid during the year, provided you meet certain requirements.
Gather your tax records. You will need documentation of all of your income for the tax year, such as W-2s, 1099s, and any off-book income, such as cash payments for services rendered. You will need records of all taxes paid to the IRS, whether through payroll withholding or quarterly tax payments. You will need documentation for any deductible expenses you paid during the tax year. These may be in the form of receipts, canceled checks or bank statements.
Determine your filing status. The Internal Revenue Service recognized five filing statuses, including single, married filing jointly, married filing separate, head of household, and qualifying widow(er). Each filing status has a standard deduction that is associated with it. The standard deduction is the amount of income you can earn without incurring an income tax obligation.
Itemize your deductions. The IRS allows taxpayers to choose whether to use the standard deduction or to itemize their deductions. If you have significant deductible expenses, which may include mortgage interest, charitable contributions, employee business expenses, deductible taxes, and excessive medical expenses, you may benefit from itemizing. The IRS recommends figuring your taxes using both methods and choosing the method that provides the lowest tax obligation.
Determine your exemptions. Each exemptions allows you to exempt additional amounts of income from taxation. The amount is adjusted periodically for inflation. The amount of each exemption was $3,650 for the 2010 tax year. You may typically claim one exemption for yourself, one exemption for your spouse if you are married and filing a joint return, and one exemption for each dependent.
File your taxes. The only way to legally get back all of the federal income taxes you have paid into the IRS is to show that you have not received any taxable income during the tax year. Your taxable income is any amount of income that you received that is in excess of your combined deductions and exemptions. You must file an income tax return to get a refund of any taxes that have been withheld, even if you are not required by law to file a return.
There are a number of refundable tax credits that are available to taxpayers which can either offset taxes due or provide a tax refund. These credits vary by tax year, but they are only available if you file a federal income tax return. Medicare taxes and Social Security taxes are different from federal income taxes, and you will likely not get a refund on those.
Only one exemption may be claimed per person. If you are claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return, you cannot claim an exemption for yourself on your own tax return.
- IRS: Six Important Facts about Dependents and Exemptions
- IRS: Eight Facts About Filing Status
- IRS: Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information." Accessed Feb. 15, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Page 10. Accessed Feb. 15, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Page 22. Accessed Feb. 15, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses (Including Capital Gains and Losses," Page 13. Accessed Feb. 15, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Page 5. Accessed Feb. 15, 2020.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.