My taxes are deliberately setup to withhold extra, because I stink at saving money and I know it. So this way it just happens, and I get a refund every year. One year I had to pay a few hundred bucks I didn't have so this also makes sure I have plenty of cushion in case something goes wacky and I owe.
It so happens tax refund season also falls right on the time when I need annual work done on my car, which I would not otherwise have the money to cover. So that's what I do with my little refund every stinking year. Car repairs.
Anyway, the moment my W2 is available for download from my payroll company, I ask HR if that's final. Because sometimes they revise it. And THAT sucks if you have already filed. Once I get a final W2, I run it through one of the online tax software things mainly to see where the numbers fall. They'll let you get all the way to the end before you have to pay. Normally I do this through two competing products to see if they have the same results. So far, they always have.
If I am due a refund, I file that part of it immediately. Typically a Federal refund posts in a week. This year, I filed on Jan 31 and had a refund on February 6.
Normally I owe a little to my state. $23 this year. If I owe, I mail it around April 14. No need to pay them early.
Now I have a very simple income. One job, plain W2. I used to own stocks outright and that messed things up badly for me. Have to do all this depreciation and interest basis whatsit junk. HUH? All I wanted to do was own a few shares in companies I admire or use or liked or whatever, totally a whopping $30 or something. Wasn't trying to make money and didn't. But those few symbolic shares did cause a paperwork nightmare as 1099s started coming in after I've already sent in my tax form and spent my little refund and forgotten all about it. What do you mean I get a 1099 for ONE share of something that lost money? wtf do I do now? I already filed.
I never could figure out what to do with all that stuff but since the shares were worth approximately 10 bucks and had lost value, I ignored it and presumed the IRS would not bother to audit something so small. They never said a word. The one company I really liked went private, from which I got jack. The sale price per share was practically nil. And that ended my desire to have anything to do with stocks. So yeah don't do it. Let your 401(k) do it.