Taxpayers accustomed to receiving a tax refund every year should be aware of the fact that there are two tax changes for 2011 that could impact their tax liability, possibly making the refunds anticipated next spring lower or even resulting in tax due for taxpayers who normally have small refunds.

For 2011, Congress did away with the Making Work Pay tax credit, which was a refundable credit worth up to $400 ($800 for a joint return). Although the payroll withholding tables have been adjusted to compensate for the loss of this credit for employees by increasing tax withholding, these adjustments are not exact and not always suitable for each individual’s specific tax circumstances. For self-employed individuals who pay estimated taxes, there is no equivalent withholding adjustment. Thus, it is quite possible that the loss of this credit may adversely impact many taxpayers’ refunds for 2011.

Congress actually replaced the Making Work Pay credit in 2011 with a 2% (from 6.2% to 4.2%) reduction in FICA withholding for employees and a corresponding SE Tax reduction for self-employed individuals. This change can affect the 2011 refund or balance due for individuals who work for multiple employers and have earnings in excess of the maximum amount subject to FICA withholding for the year ($106,800 for 2011). When individuals have excess FICA withholding, the excess is refunded on their tax returns. Those accustomed to FICA refunds can, therefore, expect about a 1/3 reduction in their FICA refunds, which will also adversely affect the 2011 refund to be received or balance due to be paid next year.

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