How Tax Return Is Calculated - EXCOL, LLC
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How Tax Return Is Calculated


How Tax Return Is Calculated

A tax return is a form that you file with the Department of Revenue and the Department of the Treasury to report your income, expenses, and any information relevant for taxation. Also, it is a snapshot of how your financial situation was in a calendar year. 

You can use a tax return to calculate your liability, plan for tax payment, and request tax refunds in the case of an overpayment. Typically, tax returns are filed annually and cover wages, capital gains, dividends, interest, and other profits. 

Calculating a tax return is important because it helps you know exactly how much you should pay. Paying more often leads to the need to get a tax refund, later on, something that most people may not be willing to do. Similarly, paying less in taxes leaves you indebted to the taxman. The best thing to do is to accurately calculate your taxes to know what to pay.

What is Considered When Calculating Tax Returns?

Generally, tax returns often cover three sections that let you report your income and determine applicable deductions and tax credits. 


The income section of a tax return declares all your sources of income. Most people use the W-2 Form to make this declaration. You must report important details like royalties, self-employment income, and sometimes, capital gains. 

There are different taxable income categories that are discussed here. Please note that some of these may not be applicable to taxable state income. You need to learn more about your specific state and what is applicable to it. 

The taxable income categories include:

  • W-2 wage, salary, and independent contract

The majority of taxpayers are either salaried individuals or have a wage. That must be reported on the W-2 form. In addition, if you got an independent contractor income, that has to be incorporated in the tax return calculations.

  • Alimony received

A court order made in 2018 ruled out the need to pay tax on alimony received. For instance, a divorce finalized in 2020 and alimony payment made will not incur any taxes for the recipient. On the other hand, the alimony payer settles regular income taxes before paying the alimony. Any alimony received from a spouse or former spouse has to be declared as income if that payment was received before the court declaration of December 31, 2018.

Child support does not qualify as alimony and should not be included in taxable income. 

  • Bartering income

When exchanging products and services for other goods and services, you must declare the value involved as taxable income. You can get this value as per the fair market value. The person with whom you traded is required to send you Form 1099-B where you will report the fair market value of the goods or services. 

  • Forgiven or canceled debt

Generally, forgiven debt classified as taxable income. The tax is calculated as per the canceled amount. However, not all forgiven debt classified as taxable income. 

  • Gambling

All prizes and money won from gambling falls under taxable income and must be reported when calculating your tax return. Include both cash winnings and the fair market value of non-cash winnings.

Other crucial incomes that you have to factor in during the calculation of your tax return include moving expenses, retirement plan income, pension, and annuity income, and unemployment benefits and income.


Taxpayers love deductions because they reduce tax liability. The deductions are generally expenses incurred by the taxpayer throughout the year and should be subtracted from their gross income to determine how much you owe in taxes.

Various states have tax codes that guide the deduction of expenses from taxable income. The tax codes are adjusted annually by the federal and state governments. The essence of these deductions is to motivate taxpayers to take part in community programs geared towards making society better. A keen taxpayer can explore existing tax deductions and service-focused initiatives yearly. 

Tax deductions generally fall into two categories: itemized deductions and standard deductions. 

Standard deductions often apply to federal taxes and affect most individuals. The total amount involved varies annually and according to the taxpayer’s filing features. States may also have standard deductions at the state-level tax. Using standard deduction is preferred due to the fact that you do not need to make any calculation. The amount is already set and determined. 

In the case of itemized deductions, the deductions will only apply for amounts above the standard deduction threshold. Examples of itemized deductions include:

  • Property taxes
  • Home office
  • Healthcare costs
  • Mortgage interest 

Most taxpayers ignore a variety of tax deductions both at the federal and state level that could be helpful. For instance, charitable donations to religious, government, humanitarian, and nonprofit organizations.

Tax credits

Tax credits are used to offset the tax amount owed. Similar to deductions, several jurisdictions use tax credits. However, this option often impacts the care of seniors and dependent children, education, pensions, and more. 

Having declared your income, deductions, and credits, the final section of the tax return showcases how much taxes you owe the government or how much overpayment you’ve made. You have different ways of handling tax overpayment, including asking for a refund or rolling it over for the next tax season. 

For the taxes owed, you can decide to make a single lump-sum payment or plan tax payments over a specified period. Furthermore, salaried individuals can choose to pay their taxes in advance to reduce the tax burden.

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