Taxes File Your Own Taxes Why You Didn’t Get a Bigger Tax Refund This Year By Rebecca Lake Updated on June 30, 2022 Reviewed by Michelle P Scott Fact checked by Kiran Aditham In This Article View All In This Article Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Tax Refunds and Itemized Deductions Increased Standard Deductions Changes to Tax Brackets Plan Ahead for Next Year Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: fiskes / Getty Images Expecting a tax refund this year? As of December 2021, the IRS issued over 169 million refunds during the calendar year including those for individuals who didn't have a filing obligation but chose to file to request their economic impact payments. The average refund in 2021 was $2,879. But if you’re hoping for a big tax refund in 2022, you may be in for a surprise. Here are some of the potential reasons your refund might be smaller than you expected. Key Takeaways The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) may limit the amount of tax refund you'll receive through at least 2025.Tax reform brought on by the TCJA eliminated certain deductions including moving, casualty and theft, job search, and unreimbursed work expenses such as travel and meals.The IRS is allowing individuals to deduct charitable contributions made during calendar year 2021 of up to 100% of their adjusted gross income.The IRS has increased standard deductions for tax year 2021 including $12,550 for individuals and married couples filing separately, and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly. They'll increase again in 2022 to adjust for inflation. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was the largest tax overhaul since 1986. It made some major changes to the federal tax code that won’t expire until at least Dec. 31, 2025. Some of the most notable tax law updates include: Lowering the mortgage interest deduction: Before 2017, taxpayers could deduct interest on up to $1 million in mortgage loans. The TCJA now allows taxpayers to deduct interest on up to $750,000 in mortgage loans. Bulking up the standard deduction: This change allows more taxpayers to avoid the hassle of itemizing write-offs on their tax return because the bigger standard deduction often exceeds their qualifying expenses. However, personal exemptions have been eliminated. Updating state and local tax deduction amounts: The so-called SALT deductions are now capped at $10,000, which could decrease your chances of seeing a bigger tax refund if your state and local tax payments are well above that amount. Setting new restrictions on unreimbursed casualty losses: Before 2017, such losses were deductible if they exceeded $100 plus 10% of the adjusted gross income. Now, you’re only allowed to deduct such losses if they occur in a “presidentially declared disaster area.” Eliminating alimony deductions: Taxpayers no longer get to deduct alimony, but the payments are tax-free for the ex-spouse who receives them. Note Child support payments are not eligible for a tax deduction for payers, nor are they considered taxable income for recipients. Tax Refunds and Itemized Deductions Itemizing deductions is one way to snag a bigger tax refund if you’re able to substantially reduce your taxable income for the year. Tax reform, however, eliminated certain deductions that you might have claimed previously, including: Moving expenses (only members of the military can claim them now)Casualty and theft expensesAlimony paymentsTax prep feesInvestment advisory feesJob search expensesUnreimbursed work expenses, including travel, meals, and parking Will tax returns be bigger if you itemize and claim charitable deductions? Maybe. The TCJA raised the maximum cap on charitable contribution deductions from 50% of adjusted gross income to 60%. Congress temporarily suspended this limit in 2021 so individuals could deduct cash contributions of up to 100% of their adjusted gross income for that tax year. Unfortunately, the cap drops to 60% again in 2022. Note Under the TCJA, you can no longer deduct interest paid on home equity loans, unless loan proceeds are used to substantially improve the property. Increased Standard Deductions Tax reform raised the standard deduction limits. Depending on your expenses, itemizing may lose some of its luster if your itemized deductions no longer exceed the standard deduction. For the 2021 tax year, for example, standard deduction amounts are as follows: $25,100 for married couples filing jointly$18,800 for heads of household$12,550 for individuals and married taxpayers who file separate returns These higher standard deduction limits, which will again increase for tax year 2022, are designed in part to make up for the loss of the personal exemption, previously worth $4,050. In the past, taxpayers were able to claim the exemption for themselves and their dependents, if eligible. Standard deductions increase by several hundred dollars in 2022: $25,900 for married couples filing jointly$19,400 for heads of household$12,950 for individuals and married taxpayers who file separate returns Note Consider using an online refund estimator tool to determine whether itemizing or claiming the standard deduction might yield a bigger tax refund. Changes to Tax Brackets Another key change of tax reform involved the tax brackets. The tax code kept seven brackets but changed the marginal tax rates within each of them. For the 2021 tax year, personal income tax rates range from 10% to 37%, depending on your income. The corresponding tax rates remain the same in 2022. Making more money—and having fewer deductions you could claim—could be a double whammy if it results in having more taxable income for the year. That change, plus a higher effective tax rate, might mean you wind up with a smaller than expected tax refund. If you received unemployment benefits for part of the year and opted not to have taxes withheld from them, your refund could also be less than expected. Plan Ahead for Next Year If you were disappointed at not getting a bigger tax refund this year, it’s never too soon to consider your tax planning efforts for next year. Here are some tips for pumping up your refund or minimizing the odds of owing money: Contribute to a health savings account (HSA) if you have a high deductible health plan, since those contributions lower your taxable income. Funnel tax-free money into your flexible spending account (FSA) if you have one of those instead. Open a traditional IRA or bump up contributions to your 401(k), both of which can reduce your taxable income. Increase your charitable giving efforts to take advantage of the larger deduction for those contributions. Use the IRS EITC Assistant tool to determine whether you’re eligible for the Earned Income Credit. Harvest losses in your taxable investment account to offset any taxable capital gains. Keep in mind that the changes enacted under tax reform are only effective through 2025 (as of now). It’s a good idea to revisit your tax strategy each year to make sure you’re always getting the biggest refund possible. Note If you’d rather get more money in your paychecks as opposed to getting a tax refund, update your Form W-4 with your employer to adjust your tax withholding. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Why is my tax refund lower compared to previous years? The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) instituted tax reform that cut several notable deductions in process including:Unreimbursed employee expenses such as travel and meals.Job search expensesTax preparation fees,Casualty and theft losses, with the exception of losses occurring in federally declared disaster areas.In addition, personal exemption state and local taxes have been capped at $10,000 through 2025. How do I get a bigger tax refund? Choose the most ideal filing status for your financial situation to help lower your taxes and increase your refund. And be sure to claim the earned income tax credit (EITC) if you're eligible. This credit helps taxpayers reduce federal income tax liability by a certain amount set yearly. You may even get a tax refund if you don’t owe any tax. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. IRS. "Filing Season Statistics for Week Ending December 3, 2021." IRS. "Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families." IRS. "Question: Are child support payments deductible by the payer and may the payer claim the child as a dependent?" IRS. "Instructions for Form 3903 (2020), Moving Expenses." Tax Policy Center. "How Did the TCJA Change the Standard Deduction and Itemized Deductions?" IRS. "The IRS Encourages Taxpayers to Consider Charitable Contributions." IRS. "Charitable Contribution Deductions." IRS. "IRS provides tax inflation adjustments for tax year 2021." IRS. 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