5 changes to expect when you file your tax return this year

  • Tax Day 2019 is April 15. It is the last day to file your 2018 tax return. 
  • This is the first tax season since the new tax law went into effect, the most significant change to the US tax code in 30 years.
  • Taxpayers can expect to see an increased standard deduction and child tax credit when filing their tax return, while other deductions have been eliminated or capped.  
  • Most taxpayers can file their tax return online using services like TurboTax, H&R Block, Liberty Tax, and TaxAct

In 2017, the US government passed a major tax law that went into effect for the 2018 tax year. That means that the law's changes will hit your wallet when you file your tax return before Tax Day on April 15, 2019.

Let's take a look at some of the biggest changes you can expect on your tax return when you file this year.

New tax brackets

The first thing you'll probably notice is that the tax brackets have been adjusted. There are still seven federal income tax brackets — but at slightly lower rates and adjusted income ranges.

Read more: It took me under an hour to file my taxes this year thanks to a time-saving strategy that's available to anyone

Remember that tax brackets are graduated. That means you'll pay 10% on the first $9,525 you earn if single or $19,050 if married filing jointly regardless of whether you make $9,000 per year or $9 million. As your income goes up, you only pay the higher rate on the new income. Rates don't go up retroactively on all of your income. 

RELATED: Take a look at the average tax refund in every U.S. state:

Average tax refund in every U.S. state
See Gallery
Average tax refund in every U.S. state


Average refund: $3,206

Number of refunds: 10,087,693

Total income tax refunded: $32.3 billion


Average refund: $3,115

Number of refunds: 1,611,412

Total income tax refunded: $5 billion


Average refund: $3,099

Number of refunds: 1,396,609

Total income tax refunded: $4.3 billion


Average refund: $3,098

Number of refunds: 1,300,577

Total income tax refunded: $4 billion

New York

Average refund: $3,059

Number of refunds: 7,712,210

Total income tax refunded: $23.6 billion

New Jersey

Average refund: $3,013

Number of refunds: 3,479,321

Total income tax refunded: $10.5 billion


Average refund: $2,989

Number of refunds: 214,649

Total income tax refunded: $641.6 million

North Dakota 

Average refund: $2,983

Number of refunds: 277,422

Total income tax refunded: $827.4 million


Average refund: $2,933

Number of refunds: 7,854,538

Total income tax refunded: $23 billion


Average refund: $2,922

Number of refunds: 1,018,429

Total income tax refunded: $2.97 billion


Average refund: $2,911

Number of refunds: 13,594,703

Total income tax refunded: $39.5 billion

Washington D.C.

Average refund: $2,900

Number of refunds: 277,399

Total income tax refunded: $804.5 million


Average refund: $2,900

Number of refunds: 4,973,653

Total income tax refunded: $14.4 billion


Average refund: $2,861

Number of refunds: 2,329,288

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion


Average refund: $2,850

Number of refunds: 2,704,250

Total income tax refunded: $7.7 billion


Average refund: $2,843

Number of refunds: 276,887

Total income tax refunded: $787 million


Average refund: $2,830

Number of refunds: 1,111,952

Total income tax refunded: $3 billion


Average refund: $2,832

Number of refunds: 3,606,774

Total income tax refunded: $10.2 billion


Average refund: $2,802

Number of refunds: 1,650,125

Total income tax refunded: $4.6 billion


Average refund: $2,771

Number of refunds: 3,129,030

Total income tax refunded: $8.7 billion


Average refund: $2,759

Number of refunds: 989,288

Total income tax refunded: $2.7 billion


Average refund: $2,726

Number of refunds: 2,465,816

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion


Average refund: $2,681

Number of refunds: 1,033,141

Total income tax refunded: $2.8 billion


Average refund: $2,681

Number of refunds: 2,749,362

Total income tax refunded: $7.4 billion


Average refund: $2,672

Number of refunds: 2,244,925

Total income tax refunded: $6 billion


Average refund: $2,665

Number of refunds: 1,044,275

Total income tax refunded: $2.8 billion

New Mexico 

Average refund: $2,657

Number of refunds: 724,549

Total income tax refunded: $1.9 billion

South Dakota

Average refund: $2,651

Number of refunds: 321,372

Total income tax refunded: $852 million

West Virginia

Average refund: $2,649

Number of refunds: 649,049

Total income tax refunded: $1.7 billion


Average refund: $2,648

Number of refunds: 1,590,274

Total income tax refunded: $4.2 billion


Average refund: $2,648

Number of refunds: 365,749

Total income tax refunded: $968.4 million

Rhode Island

Average refund: $2,643

Number of refunds: 436,490

Total income tax refunded: $1.1 billion


Average refund: $2,643

Number of refunds: 5,071,264

Total income tax refunded: $13.4 billion


Average refund: $2,636

Number of refunds: 2,014,233

Total income tax refunded: $5.3 billion

North Carolina

Average refund: $2,629

Number of refunds: 3,580,471

Total income tax refunded: $9.4 billion


Average refund: $2,615

Number of refunds: 711,103

Total income tax refunded: $1.8 billion


Average refund: $2,612

Number of refunds: 2,577,994

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion


Average refund: $2,602

Number of refunds: 1,141,151

Total income tax refunded: $3 billion

New Hampshire

Average refund: $2,602

Number of refunds: 558,359

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion


Average refund: $2,601

Number of refunds: 2,220,029

Total income tax refunded: $5.7 billion

South Carolina

Average refund: $2,569

Number of refunds: 1,719,299

Total income tax refunded: $4.4 billion


Average refund: $2,564

Number of refunds: 535,763

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion


Average refund: $2,560

Number of refunds: 3,776,668

Total income tax refunded: $9.7 billion


Average refund: $2,517

Number of refunds: 4,570,589

Total income tax refunded: $11.5 billion


Average refund: $2,516

Number of refunds: 2,112,212

Total income tax refunded: $5.3 billion


Average refund: $2,457

Number of refunds: 561,133

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion


Average refund: $2,436

Number of refunds: 2,236,886

Total income tax refunded: $5.4 billion


Average refund: $2,401

Number of refunds: 372,817

Total income tax refunded: $895 million


Average refund: $2,398

Number of refunds: 1,431,924

Total income tax refunded: $3.4 billion


Average refund: $2,392

Number of refunds: 254,192

Total income tax refunded: $608 million


Average refund: $2,336

Number of refunds: 509,896

Total income tax refunded: $1.2 billion

Average tax refund by state

Higher standard deduction

When filing taxes, you can choose between taking the standard deduction or itemizing your deductions. After adding up all of your allowed itemized deductions, if the total is larger than the standard deduction, you can deduct that from your income.

Read more: The IRS is now accepting tax returns. Here's what you can expect when filing under the new tax law.

This year, the standard deduction is about double compared to prior years. When combined with some reduced, capped, or eliminated deductions, it may convert you from an itemized household to a standard deduction household when you file in 2019. That could simplify things for many people.

A bigger Child Tax Credit

In 2017, the Child Tax Credit was $1,000 per child. A credit lowers your tax bill directly where a deduction lowers your taxable income. This means credits have a bigger impact on your tax bill than deductions.

Starting in 2018, you can deduct $2,000 per child. Income limits apply, but they are significantly higher than they were in 2017. 

No more exemptions

While the standard deduction increased along with the Child Tax Credit, personal exemptions are now a thing of the past. Prior to 2018, there was a personal exemption of $4,050 for each filer, spouse, and dependent.

Limited state and local tax deduction

Anyone who owns a home in a state with high state taxes, which includes California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, will see the beloved SALT deduction capped at $10,000 for 2018.

SALT stands for state and local taxes, an allowed deduction under both the old and the new tax rules. But starting with the 2018 tax year, you can't claim the full cost of state and local taxes — including property taxes — if they are more than $10,000 per year. 

Get a jump start to avoid last-minute stress

It's never too early to start planning and getting ready for tax time. That means gathering statements and documents, knowing what to look for in the mail (and email) when important documents arrive, and planning how you will file in 2019.

Read more:The IRS isn't calling you — it's a scam, and here's what to do if it happens to you

Whatever you do, don't wait for the last minute. That is a fast track to stress, mistakes, and other issues down the road. When you are well prepared, you can file your taxes with ease through your favorite accountant or tax app.

Most people do just fine preparing their own taxes using an online app like TurboTax, TaxAct, H&R Block Online, or Liberty Tax. Others feel more comfortable with a professional accountant. In either case, get ready for some big changes when you prepare your 2018 tax return. 

Prepare your taxes using an online app

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SEE ALSO: Financial experts say there's no reason to panic if your tax refund is smaller this year 

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