What Taxes Do You Get Back?

by Devra Gartenstein ; Updated July 27, 2017

The amount of money you get back from your federal taxes depends on how much you have paid, as well as how much you ultimately owe. The amount you pay is based on the estimated number of exemptions that you claim on your W-4 form, or the estimated tax payments you make yourself if you are self-employed. Your actual tax liability depends on your filing status, annual income, and allowable deductions.

W4 Withholding

Your employer will ask you to fill out a W-4 form when you start a job, and you should complete an updated W-4 form if you tax filing status changes, such as if you marry or have a child. This form asks for information about your filing status, such as whether you are married or single, as well as the number of withholding allowances that correspond with your filing situation. The higher the number of deductions you claim, the less income tax your employer will withhold from your paychecks. If your employer withholds too much income tax based on the information on your W-4 form, then you are entitled to a refund of the overpayment when you file your federal tax return.

Estimated Tax Payments

If you are self-employed, you must make estimated tax payments throughout the year to cover the federal income tax you owe. These payments are due on April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15 of the following year. Estimated tax payments should be based on your income and tax liability during the previous year, altgough you may adjust your payments based on whether you are earning more or less than you were a year earlier. If your estimated tax payments exceed your tax liability when you file your annual tax return, you will receive a refund for the the difference.


When you file yuor federal tax return, your total tax liability will be based on your earnings during the previous calendar year, or the amount you earned from all of your jobs. The lower your gross income, the smaller the percentage of your earnings you will owe as income tax. If you only worked during part of the year but your employer withheld income tax based on the information on your W-4 form, you will probably overpay because he will have based your tax liability on the tax rate for a higher income bracket. You will receive a tax refund equalling the amount of your overpayment.


The Internal Revenue Service allows you to offset your taxable earnings by crediting or deducting certain expenses. Deductible expenses include mortgage interest, contributions to charity and some medical and education expenses. In addition, if you have children, you are entitled to tax credits due to the expense of raising them, provided you are the only parent claiming a tax credit for a particular child. If your deductible expenses are minimal, you may claim a standard deduction, which is $5,800 for a single person and $11,600 for a married couple as of the time of publication.

About the Author

Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.