How to Calculate Refund Based on Gross Salary

by Stephanie Ellen, studioD

When you reach tax time, you can determine how much of a tax refund to expect before you tackle the sometimes lengthy yearly tax return. If you want an accurate figure for your refund, you can always use your tax software or fill out your tax form. However, you can get a very good estimate of your expected refund based on your gross salary using the IRS tax tables.

Gather your information. In order to figure out your refund, you'll need your W2 for the tax year.

Download a copy of the IRS Tax Table for the current year. You can find the current tax table on the IRS website by typing "tax table 20xx" into the search text box at the top right of the IRS home page, where "20xx" is the actual year you want the tax table for.

Look up how much tax you owe -- based on your gross salary for the year -- in the tax table. Your gross salary can be found in box 1 of your W-2. In order to find the right column in the tax table, you will also need to know your filing status. The five filing statuses are single, head of household, married filing jointly, married filing separately and qualifying widower with dependent child.

Deduct how much tax you owe from how much you actually paid in taxes. How much Federal tax you paid can be found in box 2 of your W-2. For example, if box 2 shows $6,000 paid and the tax table shows that you owe $5,000 in taxes as a single person earning $35,250, then you can expect a refund of $1,000.


  • The refund you calculate with this method is only an estimate. Your expected refund may be higher or lower depending upon how many dependents you have, what types of deductions you take and whether you itemize your deductions or take the standard deduction.

Items you will need

  • W-2
  • Tax table
  • Calculator


About the Author

Stephanie Ellen teaches mathematics and statistics at the university and college level. She coauthored a statistics textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin. She has been writing professionally since 2008. Ellen holds a Bachelor of Science in health science from State University New York, a master's degree in math education from Jacksonville University and a Master of Arts in creative writing from National University.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images