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Kicking the personal fiscal can down the road

Submitted by Adam Van Brimmer on Wed, 01/30/2013 - 9:57am

Are you over stub shock yet?

The phenomena hits every January, when tax changes, health care premium increases and any other benefits adjustments kick in. Your paycheck is going to be smaller. It’s a matter of how much smaller.

Most of us had the double-whammy this year of the federal payroll tax increase and rising health care costs. Some of that was offset by a decrease in state withholding – at least the married among us saw that – but the overall hit was noticeable.

I actually overestimated the take-home wages I would lose, which says something about my math skills as well as my outlook on the number of hands in my wallet.

On the flip side, the W-2s from 2012 are rolling in. I’m one of those who would rather write Uncle Barry and Uncle Nathan checks at the end of the year than get a refund. Giving governments an interest-free loan is not my idea of smart personal fiscal policy.

Typically, I will go and adjust my withholding every January to get it as accurate as possible.

Doing that this year is next to impossible. Congress kicked the fiscal cliff can a month ago, so I have no idea what my 2013 tax rates will be. Should I play it safe and increase my withholding? Should I cut it, which would help my budgeting (get that take-home pay back to what it was in December) but might haunt me next spring?

It’s frustrating, to say the least. The best solution, I think, is to wait out the debt ceiling, sequester and tax reform debates. In other words, kick my own can down the road.


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