3 Tips for Explaining a Small Tax Refund

TCJA smaller tax refunds
Share this content

As we look to close the books on another successful year, 2019 presents some interesting circumstances for tax advisors. This will be the first tax filing year under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was put into law on December 22, 2017, and your clients will be surprised when they realize their refunds are smaller than in the past.

Many people rely on their tax refunds each year for a variety of reasons. And when it’s smaller than they thought or they owe money, they tend to blame the tax professional. They feel like something was either done incorrectly or was overlooked. 

In reality, the client may not be receiving a refund for a number of reasons, none of which are directly the tax advisor’s fault. The deduction they have been accustomed to may have gone away due to the change in payroll tax deductions, the client’s inability to take SALT deductions or some other change in the new tax law that is not beneficial to them.

To help your clients adjust to the new reality, I recommend the following:

1)     Send out an email and remind them changes may be in store for their upcoming tax filing due to the new laws taking effect.

2)     Be transparent and show them how their refund has changed. Explain why the change has taken place.

3)     Tell them how to avoid this for next year, and make sure they implement the recommended changes.

Most people are aware that this coming year will exhibit changes in their tax situation because of the new laws, but they are unsure how it will affect them. It's best to be honest. This may result in you spending some additional time with them this year, but, at the same time, it may solidify your relationship. 

There may be opportunities, prior to the thick of tax season, for you to look at your client list, identify those who may have a potential issue and schedule time to review their personal situation. This short meeting will allow you to circumvent having an unhappy client or one that is looking for a new tax advisor. They, for their part, will be happy you are being so proactive.


This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

Related Links

IRS Updates W-4, Calculator Used to Figure Withholding

How Clients May Be Impacted by 529 Changes

About Lawrence Sprung

Larry Sprung

Lawrence Sprung CFP® is the President and Founder of Mitlin Financial, Inc. He entered the financial industry in 1996 and continues to be inspired and energized by the challenge of helping his clients achieve and even surpass their financial goals.

Mitlin Financial, Inc. is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) that prides itself on facilitating their client's financial future.  Being a fiduciary is a perfect fit for Larry’s personality and business perspective as he puts clients first and consistently helps them make decisions that are right for them.

Larry is known as a devoted educator. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and regularly films the firm’s “Mitlin Minute,” which is designed to provided information regarding relevant financial topics.

Today, Larry is proud to be serving the second and third generations of his clients. He has seen first-hand how strong financial habits instilled in parents, children and grandchildren, can impact a family’s wealth and wealth stewardship for generations.

As an active volunteer, Larry serves on the National Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).  With his wife, Denise, he has raised more than $1,000,000 for the organization through the Keith Milano Memorial Fund. The fund was created at AFSP in memory of Larry and Denise’s brother-in-law and brother, respectively.

Larry has been recognized as one of Long Island Business News' "40 Under 40," and his commentary is regularly featured in publications such as Long Island Business News, U.S. News & World Reports, Newsday, Investopedia, Yahoo Finance, and Nasdaq’s website. 

If you have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sprung, you will find that he is more often found conversing about AFSP, his sons’ or a hockey game. Doing business and creating relationships is at the heart of who Larry is and it is all done with style and grace.


Please login or register to join the discussion.

By Denise
Dec 21st 2018 19:21

Great article! And I love the idea of using this to plan for the following year.

Thanks (1)
Jan 8th 2019 07:00

Nice Article.

Thanks (0)