2019 tax refunds: What's changed and how to plan for the future

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- You may be surprised when your tax refund is much lower than you expected, and that's because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Everyone knows what April 15 means: time to file your taxes. This year, with the new tax law, it's already surprising a number of people.

Tax experts say if the refund is smaller, it could actually be good news. It means you likely got more in your paycheck all year long.

"They lowered the rates, and that led a lot of withholding programs -- the withholding that you get out of your paycheck -- to come down. But it didn't factor in that withholding adjustment in your paycheck, which might have been good news last year, didn't factor in that you may be losing the benefit of some of your deductions," said USC professor of law and tax expert Ed McCaffery.

Those deductions are mostly affecting high-tax blue states like California and New York.

Your state and local taxes are now limited to $10,000, and that includes your property taxes as well.

The good news is the standard deduction has doubled, and most people who used to itemize might not need to.

TurboTax estimates nearly 90 percent of taxpayers will take the higher standard deduction.

If you paid too much in taxes or you just want to get a bigger refund, experts say now is the time to make changes for next year.

"You can make an adjustment this year," McCaffery said. "You can go to your payroll department and say, 'I need to increase my withholding.' They'll know how to walk you through that."

So as you head to prepare your taxes, be ready because it could be a pleasant surprise or a rude shock.
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