It is unpleasant to point to our friends, family and two unofficially adopted grandsons that their Atlanta neighbors make terrible tourists. On a rude behavior continuum, it’s not even close; think Secretariat at 1973 Belmont Stakes. While Walton County had fewer arrests during the 2018 ATL spring break, the halls of 30A still echoed with howls of protesting locals. At our house, the lamentations came for a different reason. Our federal tax liability perturbed my ever-frugal wife. ATL spring break is problematic but not an income tax liability. In fact, you should plan to have one every year.

Workers often overpay withholding taxes as a form of forced savings. Financial advisors scorn the tactic because the government uses your money without compensation. Yes, the method provides the Treasury an interest-free loan, but it also forces people to live below their means. Over time spending less than you make leads to good things. With low-interest rates persisting, the tactic doesn’t set you back much. If you use the refund for a specific purpose, it is a way to start the savings engine.

The excessive tax refund strategy has a particular weakness. Thieves armed with purloined Social Security numbers file fraudulent tax returns focusing on those with large refunds. Crooks tend to go where the money is and in our electronic age criminal logic follows the money.

To beat these devils, don’t plan for a refund and the villains lose. It is a bit of a hassle to tweak the numbers, but it is not much difference between locking your doors at night. Locked doors only make a crook’s job harder, and that’s what this strategy does. Given the multitude of data breaches, assume your data is compromised, and a tax return with large refund is a target of opportunity.

Workers receiving wages can adjust their withholding. Go to and search for Form W-4, follow the directions and submit the form to your employer. Use the updated IRS Withholding Calculator. Given tax law changes it is important to make sure your withholdings are correct. Self-employed people should revise their quarterly payments. Retirees can tinker with the percentage withheld from an IRA, pension, annuity or Social Security. If necessary retirees can change quarterly payments, too.

The IRS does not penalize anyone who paid either 90 percent of the current year tax liability or 100 percent of the previous year’s. For couples with adjusted gross income (bottom of page one, Form 1040) over $150,000, the 100 percent requirement goes to 110 percent. Paying taxes is not fun but having a tax refund stolen is much worse. Don’t despair over a tax bill. Writing a modest check and enclosing it with your return makes it harder for crooks to do their dirty work.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.