In the past, Samantha Brady’s annual check from Uncle Sam for paying too much in taxes has gone to everything from moving expenses to paying off debts.
This year, she put a bit toward a family trip to Northern California.
“It really depends on the year when we make plans for the money,” said the Las Vegas teacher and a married mother of four.
Brady was just one of about 760,000 Clark County taxpayers who received a tax refund in 2016, according to a recent analysis by financial technology company SmartAsset.
The data shows that Clark County taxpayers received the third-highest average amount in tax refunds for the state. Clark County was also home to the fifth-highest population in the state that owed the federal government more.
Clark County taxpayers received an average tax refund of $3,341 from Washington, D.C. for returns filed in 2016 for income earned in 2015.
That’s the third-highest average tax refund in the state compared to Carson City and Nevada’s 16 counties.
Nationally, Clark County ranked 285th. Teton County, Wyoming — home to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park and some of Yellowstone National Park —came in first with 8,690 taxpayers receiving an average tax refund of $23,239.
When it comes to people who didn’t pay enough in taxes and owe the federal government more, Clark County ranked No. 5 in the state.
About 175,000 taxpayers owed an average of $6,145 to the U.S. Clark ranked 486th in the nation.
‘A forced savings plan’
Local accountants say the rankings are interesting but ultimately show no real significance.
“What it does clearly show, however, is that most people do not want to finish the year owing Uncle Sam,” said Ralph Piercy of the Las Vegas accounting firm Piercy Bowler Taylor & Kern.
“They like getting refunds and are willing to over withhold to ensure they do not end up owing,” Piercy continued. “In other words, they use Uncle Sam like a Christmas savings account.”
The rankings are notable for businesses like used car dealers, jewelry stores and pawn shops that love tax refund season, said Chris Wilcox, a partner at the local branch of North Dakota-based accounting firm Eide Bailly.
The reason most people get refunds between January and April is because they don’t claim enough exemptions on their Form W-4 filed with employers.
“Many people over-withhold on purpose because it is a forced savings plan,” Wilcox said. “If they get an extra $100 per check, it just gets spent. But if that adds up to $200 per month for a total of $2,400 for the year, they have enough to go buy a new TV or put a down payment on a car.”
SmartAsset ranked Douglas County as No. 1 in the state for taxpayers with the highest amount refunded. An average of $3,635 was refunded to nearly 17,000 taxpayers in 2016. Washoe ranked second with 160,000 taxpayers who received an average of $3,532.
Esmeralda, which includes Goldfield and is the least populous county in the state, ranked last. About 270 taxpayers received an average of $2,270 in refunded taxes.
The smallest average amount in the nation was $1,787 among 230 taxpayers in one of Colorado’s least populated counties, Mineral.
For counties with people who didn’t pay enough in taxes and owe the federal government more, Lander County, which includes Battle Mountain, ranked first in the state with 400 taxpayers who owed an average of $10,395 to the government.
Mineral County, Nevada, which includes Hawthorne, ranked last in the state with 270 taxpayers who owed $1,756 on average.
The Americans who owed the most money to the government nationwide are 100 taxpayers in McMullen County, one of the least populated counties in Texas. Those taxpayers owed an average of $37,560.
Taxpayers in one of Idaho’s least populated counties, Clark, owed the least amount on average in the nation — $1,360 among 50 people.