What Is an Overpayment in State Taxes?

Definition

An overpayment occurs when a taxpayer pays too much in income taxes. When paying estimated taxes, taxpayers must make four payments to the state throughout the year for that year's income taxes. These payments are all for the same amount and add up to the income taxes due for that year. At the end of the year, if the actual tax return shows that a lesser amount is due than the sum of the payments, an overpayment has occurred. Overpayments an also occur in businesses in which the incorrect amount of income tax is withheld by companies.

Cause

If a taxpayer knows exactly how much income tax to pay per year then overpayment does not occur. Estimated taxes, however, are partially guesswork. A taxpayer typically has a choice of either paying a certain percentage or equal amount to last year's estimated taxes, or configuring taxes to a new amount based on how much they think they will earn in the coming year. Sometimes a taxpayer overestimates earnings, leading to greater tax payments than are warranted.

Process

When taxpayers file a tax return that shows an overpayment occurred, the state must correct the problem. Typically, this means that the state will pay the taxpayer a refund for the extra amount in the form of a check, which comes several months afterward. Sometimes a state may keep the extra amount for payment of other taxes that has not yet been made, especially if the taxpayer is late on some taxes.

Effect on Income

The Internal Revenue Service considers a tax refund the same as income, so it must also be taxed during the year the taxpayer receives it -- the year after they have overestimated the payment. State laws can vary, however, affecting tax returns differently. Taxpayers may have to claim a refund from an overpayment, in which case they have a deadline of two to three years to make the claim before it is too late.