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These Are the Best U.S. Cities for Working Women in 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Women made history in the 2018 midterm elections, running for and winning offices by record numbers, making it the “Year of the Woman” according to Brookings. The number of state legislature offices held by women rose from 25% in 2018 to 29% in 2019, per the Center for American Women and Politics, an encouraging sign for the future of working women. With more women in office, it’s more likely that issues centering on women in the workforce will get the attention they deserve.

And they do deserve attention. Despite women’s higher educational attainment, the rate at which  women are participating in the workforce has plateaued, as have their wages. Women’s average earnings were still almost 82% of men’s in 2017, the most recent year available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the picture for working women can look brighter (or bleaker) depending on where they live. For the second year in a row, to find the best places to be a working woman, MagnifyMoney analyzed and ranked the 50 largest U.S. metros.

Key takeaways

  • Washington, D.C., once again holds the top spot with an overall score of 74.
  • Seattle jumped from sixth place to second, with an overall score of 66.2.  This is because the state of Washington created a family leave insurance plan that allows workers to receive at least partial pay when they use their Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time starting in 2020. FMLA is used as a stand-in for maternity leave by many American women. Under federal law, employers can’t fire workers for taking up to 12 weeks off for qualifying events, but employers do not have to pay workers for that time.
  • Charlotte, N.C., dropped to the lowest spot on our list, with an overall score of 32.1. Women are underrepresented in leadership roles there, both in business and in government.
  • Detroit came in second to last, with a final score of 33.5, thanks mostly to high unemployment and a wide gender pay gap.
  • Twenty-seven states offer no protections to workers who are pregnant or who have children. This is unchanged from last year, although some states with existing protection — such as Massachusetts, Washington and New York — as well as the District of Columbia expanded their benefits. Only 22 states have some kind of pregnancy accommodation laws, and some of those are scant.
  • These protections are nonexistent in six of the bottom-ranking 10 cities: Detroit, Memphis, Birmingham, Miami, New Orleans and Cleveland.

The 10 best U.S. metros for working women

The map and table above show the 10 cities that offer working women have the most equitable compensations and most opportunities for career advancement. Four of these cities are located on the Pacific Coast, with three of those in California. Neighboring cities Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and Boston and Providence have spots in the top 10.

Here’s a closer look at how these cities rank on different factors.

The nation’s capital is tops again.

Washington, D.C. is the best place overall for working women. It has the highest percentage of managerial positions in its workforce filled by women, at 43.9%, of any city. Boston, Providence, R.I., and Sacramento, Calif. were the other top 10 cities with high rates of women leadership in management positions, at just over 43% each.

D.C. also has some of the strongest parental and pregnancy leave policies of the 50 cities surveyed, second only to Boston. Of the top 10 cities, Washington is where child care is the most affordable, costing an average 19.9% of women’s median earnings.

Seattle is friendly to female entrepreneurs, as the U.S. city with the highest number of women-owned business, at 39.7%. San Diego is the other top 10 city with a high 35.8% rate of businesses owned by women. The West Coast, in general, is a place where women entrepreneurs are succeeding.

Western states welcome new legislators.

While Las Vegas had the highest number of female legislators of any city surveyed — Nevada is the only state where women hold a slightly majority in the state legislature (50.8%) — it didn’t crack the top 10 due to relatively high unemployment and low parental protection rates. Of the cities that did, Denver and Seattle have the highest numbers of women holding state legislative positions, at 46% and 40.8% respectively. Women in Colorado hold a majority in the state’s lower house.

The 2018 midterm election brought more women into statewide office, an encouraging sign for the future of working women. Across the country, the share of women who hold state office rose from just 25% in 2018 to 29% in 2019 — the highest in history. Mississippi had the lowest representation rate in the country at just under 14%, but none of its cities are big enough to make it on our list. That distinction falls to Memphis and Nashville, Tenn., where only 15% of state lawmakers are women.

Minneapolis has the lowest unemployment rate

No. 4 Minneapolis has a 3.6% unemployment rate, the lowest among all 50 cities surveyed and well below the U.S. average of 4% in January. Denver, where just 4.2% of women in the labor force are unemployed, is the other top 10 city scoring well on this factor.

L.A. once again has the lowest wage gap.

Then there’s the earnings gap between men and women, which is the lowest in
Los Angeles at just 11.2%. However, LA was not one of the top 10 cities — it came in at No. 21 overall. Two other California cities had the smallest gap in earnings by gender. San Diego women earn just 12.4% less than men, and Sacramento women earn 13.7% less.

Child care is costliest in Boston.

Despite landing in the top 10 cities for working women, Boston is where child care is the most costly with day care costs equal to 27.4% of median earnings among women.

But on the brighter side, Boston and Minneapolis are the two cities where more women receive employer-sponsored health insurance benefits. In Minneapolis, 71.4% of working women received health insurance coverage through an employer, as do 70.5% of women in Boston.

The 10 worst U.S. metros for working women

Of the 10 cities that offer women the least favorable economic conditions, public policies, and leadership opportunities, most are concentrated in the South. Specifically, seven of the 10 are in Southern states:

  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Memphis, Tenn.
  • Birmingham, Ala.
  • Miami
  • New Orleans
  • Oklahoma City
  • Houston

Of the remaining worst cities for working women, Detroit and Cleveland are located in the Midwest. Salt Lake City, Utah is the sole western city among these 10.

Here are some details on how these cities ranked on specific factors.

Tennessee lags in female representation.

Tennessee has one of the lowest percentage of state legislative offices filled by women, at 15.2% — affecting Memphis’ rank among the 10 worst cities. New Orleans and Birmingham also had low rates of female representation in their state legislatures. One bright spot for Birmingham:  Of all 50 cities surveyed, the lowest child care costs relative to women’s median earnings were in Birmingham, Ala.

Houston has the lowest percentage of women in management positions of all 50 cities surveyed, at just 35.9%. It’s followed closely by Salt Lake City, where just 36.2% of managers are women, and Oklahoma City at 38.1%.

Women are least likely to own business in Buffalo, N.Y. It’s not among the 10 worst cities for working women, but in Buffalo just 23.7% of business have female owners. Birmingham is a bottom 10 city that’s nearly as bad on this measure, with just 23.9% of businesses owned by women.

Unemployment rates soar in southern California.

Riverside, Calif., near Los Angeles, had the highest unemployment rate among female workers, at 9.5%. Of the 10 bottom-ranked cities, Memphis and Detroit are close behind with respective unemployment rates of 7.9% and 7.5% among women.

Wage gaps span the map.

New Orleans has the widest gap in earnings between men and women of all 50 cities (tied with San Jose). In both cities, women’s median earnings are 26.6% lower than men’s earnings, but the Big Easy is also weighed down by low rates of female representation in the state legislature and parental protections. Salt Lake City nearly matches New Orleans and San Jose with a pay gap of 26.5% between men and women working there. Detroit also has wide gender pay gap that means female workers earn 25.9% less than their male peers.

Women working in Miami are the least likely to receive health coverage through their employers. Less than half (49%) of Miami’s women have employer-based health insurance.

Charlotte drops three spots.

Already in the No. 47 spot last year, Charlotte, N.C. drops to last place in this year’s rankings. Women have nearly nonexistent parental protections here and among the 10 worst cities, Charlotte women pay the most in child care. They see 26.5% of their paychecks eaten up by child care costs, on average.

Full rankings: Where the largest 50 U.S. metros fit in

The map and list above provides a full overview of where each of the 50 largest U.S. cities rank. Check to see if your city is among the place friendly for working women, or a spot where they’ll have the hardest time getting ahead.

4 tips for modern working women

The results of our rankings show that while working women are doing better in some places than others, they’re still far from achieving parity with working men.

While it’s more difficult for women to change the working conditions and equality in their cities (or lack of it), they can still take steps to make sure they’re getting ahead at the office. Here’s how women can stand out at work and advance their career — and pay — more quickly.

  • Seek assignments that will get you noticed. Women are more likely to be assigned “office housework,” administrative tasks that keep a workplace running smoothly but won’t get them noticed. To position yourself for a raise or promotion, volunteer and ask for more high-profile assignments tied to important business or revenue goals. And don’t be shy about pushing back if you’re assigned mundane duties and tasks; it’s reasonable to request that these be fairly shared among all workers.
  • Find a mentor or ally at work. Look around your workplace to find the people who are in the positions you’d like to move into as you advance your career. See if these people are willing to mentor you — this can be especially beneficial if they are also women. Women can also seek mentorship, feedback and support for your professional growth from your direct manager. Lastly, you can ask for help and give support to your female peers, making sure your workplace is somewhere that women’s contributions are noticed, recognized and rewarded.
  • Balance work with personal responsibilities. The expectations often put on women outside the office can affect performance at work, especially for working mothers. While having children tends to have minimal effect on men’s careers, it might even give their paychecks a boost. For women, motherhood is often a professional setback. Society tells women they can “have it all,” but maybe the message should include “just not all at once”. Get clear on your priorities in life and how your job fits into that, and you can more easily identify when it makes sense to go full-steam at work and when to back off.
  • Manage your finances carefully. Although they have lower earnings compared to men, working women can help compensate for this by making wise money choices. Women have more student loans than men, for instance, so prioritizing paying down this and other debt is a first step to start catching up. Women also tend to have lower retirement savings than men, so make this a focus as well. Take full advantage of any employer match you get for retirement contributions. After that, continue to slowly increase contributions and use raises to boost your retirement savings rates.

Building a career and financial foundation that works for you won’t happen overnight. But following these tips, working on your professional skills, and developing solid money habits can go a long way.

Methodology

Each of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) was ranked against each other, on a 100-point scale, based on eight factors relevant to women’s ability to achieve financial and professional success. The final score for each MSA is the average of points assigned for each metric, and those points are assigned based on where the metro falls between the highest and lowest values for all metros.

The eight factors are:

  • Employment. The percent of women who are unemployed, as reported in the American Community Survey 2017 (five-year estimate) from the U.S. Census Bureau (“2017 ACS”).
  • Health care. The percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64 (inclusive) who have employer-based health insurance, as reported by the 2017 ACS.
  • Business ownership. Percent of businesses with employees that are owned, either wholly or equally, by women, derived from the 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Management positions. Percent of people in management occupations who are women, derived from the 2017 ACS.
  • Wage gap. Gap, as a percent, between median earnings of men and women, derived from the 2017 ACS.
  • Child care. The average cost of in-center child care, as a percent of median earnings for women. Day care costs were reported in The Care Index from New America and Care.com, and median earnings were reported by the 2017 ACS.
  • Representation. The percent of elected state (or district) legislators who are women, as reported by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics.
  • Workplace protections. State pregnancy and parental workplace protections were scored on the following bases. The highest possible score was 100 points and the lowest was zero. The highest actual score was 57 and the lowest actual score was zero.
    • Paid leave: The number of paid parental leave weeks covered by the state, divided by a maximum of 12 weeks, up to 50 points.  Data was reported by the National Partnership for Women & Families.
    • Pregnancy accommodation protections: Each MSA was granted points based on six factors reported by the National Partnership for Women & Families, for a possible total of 30 points, for the following:
      • The existence of such a law
      • If the law covers both public and private employees
      • If the law covers all employers, regardless of employer size
      • If the law doesn’t specify medical documentation for accommodations
      • If the law doesn’t include an “undue hardship” exemption for employers
      • If the law expressly extends protections for issues related to breastfeeding
    • Allowable time off to attend school events: The number of hours spent at a child’s school, per year, for which a parent cannot be fired, divided by a maximum of 40 hours, up to 20 points.  Data was reported by workplacefairness.org.

For the sake of clarity, each metro name is the first city and state listed in the MSA title, which we understand to be the most populous component of each MSA. The Care Index (child care costs) refers to Norfolk, Va., which we associate with the Virginia Beach MSA.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Elyssa Kirkham
Elyssa Kirkham |

Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here

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Where People With Disabilities Are Faring Well

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

At least 40 million Americans have a disability, and half of these people are of working age (18 to 64 years old). Yet for people with disabilities, barriers to economic and employment opportunities persist.

While 31.4% of Americans without disabilities are not in the labor force, that number is 79.4% of people with disabilities according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. People with disabilities who are employed also earn less than their non-disabled peers, resulting in a pay gap of more than $10,000 per year.

Geography plays a role in the economic and social lives of all Americans, including those with disabilities. In a new study, MagnifyMoney set out to find the major U.S. cities with positive outlooks for people with disabilities. We compared key statistics and outcomes for people with disabilities and their non-disabled peers in each of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Here’s what we found.

Key takeaways

  • Among people with disabilities, those living in Las Vegas fare the best relative to other members of their communities. Las Vegas residents with disabilities were disadvantaged in every metric we reviewed. However, the gap between their circumstances and their non-disabled peers is smaller than in any other community we reviewed, earning the metro a final score of 65.6.
  • Virginia Beach, Va. and Riverside, Calif. come in second, with final scores of 64.8 and 64.6, respectively.
  • Residents of San Francisco with disabilities face the widest disparity in outcomes compared with other non-disabled locals, earning the metro a final score of 58.3.
  • Adults with disabilities are also faring poorly compared with their peers in Buffalo, N.Y. and Louisville, Ky., with final scores of 58.5 and 58.9, respectively.
  • People with disabilities experience less favorable outcomes across most factors in every metro we reviewed, with the exception of homeownership. In a handful of places (San Diego, Orlando, Los Angeles, Memphis and New Orleans), the rates of residents with disabilities who own homes are higher than non-disabled homeowners.

These cities offer the smallest disparities of outcomes between residents who have disabilities and those do not.

Median household incomes reported for workers with and without disabilities were weighed most heavily. This was a key factor in putting Las Vegas at the top of that list. It had the smallest pay gap (when normalized for local costs) proportionally between workers who have disabilities at $26,768 average earnings and the $32,401 earned by workers no disabilities. Oklahoma City and Virginia Beach are the cities with the next lowest pay gaps between these two groups.

Employment rates among those with disabilities in each city were another key consideration. Austin, Texas, had the lowest difference in employment rates among members of its labor force with disabilities (93.9% employment) and without disabilities (96.4%).

Weighed equally with employment rates, we also considered levels of educational attainment. Specifically, we looked at how many residents with disabilities held at least a bachelor’s degree compared with locals with no disabilities.

Riverside and Las Vegas have the smallest differences in the percentage of residents with and without a disability and at least a bachelor’s degree. However, these lower disparities are an indicator of the overall low levels of educational attainment in these cities, rather than the specific situation of individuals with disabilities in these cities.

Washington, D.C., on the other hand, has the highest proportion of residents with disabilities who hold at least a bachelor’s degree, at 30.3%. In all, these factors make these the 10 cities where outcomes are most similar among people with disabilities to people with no disabilities.

Of the cities with the biggest disparities of outcomes between people with and without disabilities, the largest pay gap is found in Minneapolis. This city’s median household income for people with disabilities is $21,471, which is the lowest among these 10 cities. Compare that with the median household income for non-disabled workers in Minneapolis, at $39,744.

San Jose and San Francisco also had some of the largest income gaps between local workers with and without disabilities.

Buffalo, N.Y. has one of the lowest employment rates among workers with disabilities, at 85.6%. That lags far behind its 95.3% employment rate among non-disabled workers.

In these 10 cities, people with disabilities are also far less likely to hold a bachelor’s degree compared with their non-disabled peers. The biggest disparities in educational attainment can be seen in Columbus, Ohio and Pittsburgh. People with disabilities in Louisville, however, were the least likely overall to hold a bachelor’s degree — just 13.2% have earned such a diploma.

Understanding the metrics of this study

To figure out where outcomes are most similar for people with and without disabilities, we compared the following statistics between the two populations in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas:

  • Employment rate. This is the percentage of people in the active labor force who have jobs. People who are unable to work because of their disabilities are not included in this comparison, as they are not considered part of the active workforce.
  • Percentage of people who have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Median gross household income, normalized to reflect the local buying power. In other words, $50,000 in a high-cost city is worth less than $50,000 in a cheaper metro area, so the earnings amount would be higher in the cheaper place.
  • People living above the federal poverty line.
  • People who are currently married.
  • Homeownership rate.

Each of these factors was weighted according to overall significance, ranging from 40% for median income to 10% for poverty, marriage and homeownership rates, and 15% for unemployment and bachelor’s degree.

The differences reported are the percentage differences, not the absolute difference. For example, if 20% of people with disabilities in Metro A have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 30% of non-disabled people in Metro A have at least bachelor’s degree, the difference is -33.3%, not -10%.

Managing a disability, debt and a budget on low income

For Americans who have a disability, sticking to a budget is often a necessity.

Many count on Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) to make ends meet, which averages $1,234 per month — just above the national poverty line. They are less likely to be members of the labor force. When workers with disabilities find employment, they’re more likely to work part time and earn less than their non-disabled peers.

If you are living with a disability, however, you still have power to shape your financial future. Here are some key steps you can take to improve your money management.

Claim assistance and benefits to which you’re entitled

Federal and local governments provide a wide range of benefits to assist people with disabilities. In addition to SSDI, Americans with disabilities can also receive assistance through federal programs, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Work through these federal programs and check for local assistance programs to see what benefits you can qualify for and claim.

Practice smart budgeting habits

A budget is a must-have for people with disabilities. It can help you manage your income and your expenses to ensure you’re living within your means. Start simple: track spending, prioritize necessary costs before wants and work on paying all bills on time.

Once you’ve covered the basics of budgeting, you can start working to free up extra cash in your budget. This will create wiggle room for moves that will improve your financial security, such as paying off debt, catching up on medical bills or saving an emergency fund. Having some emergency savings is particularly crucial to help cover unexpected expenses or tide you over during lean months.

Address your debt head-on

If you have debt, that’s an obvious drain on your budget and cashflow. Actively managing this debt can help you find new strategies.

In some rare cases, you might be able to get a debt discharged. Borrowers who can prove a total and permanent disability can get federal student loans discharged, for example, relieving them from the burden of repayment.

Even if you can’t discharge debt, you still have options. One possibility is to consolidate credit card balances and other debt, which can be an opportunity to get lower interest rates or lower monthly payments. If you can afford to make extra payments, this is a great way to get out of debt faster while avoiding interest costs. And debt relief programs can help you navigate debt if you’re in over your head.

There’s no denying that having a disability adds some challenges, costs and stressors in money management. Start where you are and work on your finances one day at a time, one step at a time. Your efforts will add up to help you build a more secure financial foundation.

Methodology

Analysts calculated the differences in the six metrics between adults with disabilities and those without in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”). Each of these differences was then scored on a relative basis from the maximum and minimum values for all metros, multiplied by the weighting scheme below, and then summed for a final score. Data was sourced from the 2017 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census tables from FactFinder and microdata hosted on IPUMS, and the Regional Price Parity from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

  • Median gross household income, normalized to the regional price parity – 40%
  • Employment rate – 15%
  • Percentage of people who have at least a bachelor’s degree – 15%
  • Rate of people living above the poverty line – 10%
  • Current marriage rate – 10%
  • Homeownership rate – 10%

Analysis was designed and conducted by Prabhat Kumar.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Elyssa Kirkham
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Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here

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Where Taxpayers Expect the Biggest Tax Refunds 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

The 2019 tax season officially kicked off January 28, and 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year. While most filers will look forward to getting a refund, others might be worried that they’ll owe taxes to the IRS. Whether you can look forward to a refund is probably tied to where you live, according to the latest MagnifyMoney annual tax study (see 2018 results here). We analyzed IRS tax data for 100 of the largest U.S. metros over a five-year period (2013-2017) to find out where people owe the most taxes at the time they file their return — and where people are getting the biggest tax refunds.

While this study does not predict how much people will owe or get refunded in 2019, it can offer a glimpse into how taxpayers have fared across the country in years past.

Key findings:

Taxpayers are getting smaller refunds while tax bills are increasing. On average, we found taxpayers in the 100 largest metros who owed taxes faced a federal tax bill of $5,307 when they filed, while those taxpayers who got a refund averaged $3,016. Compared to last year’s study, which reported an average tax bill of $5,294 and average refunds of $3,052 for returns filed 2012 to 2016.

Nearly one in five taxpayers owes Uncle Sam when he or she files. Among the 100 metros analyzed, 19% of taxpayers owed taxes and 77% got a refund. This shows a trend of more people owing taxes and fewer receiving refunds, as our previous study found 17% of city-dwelling residents owed taxes and 78% received refunds.

High tax bills could correlate to more itemized returns. As in last year’s study, an average of 33% of taxpayers itemized their taxes each year during the study period. But a greater proportion of filers itemized their returns in the 10 metros where taxpayers owed the most. In these cities, on average, 39% of filers itemized their taxes.

In San Francisco, the second-ranking metro with filers who owed the most, some 40% of taxpayers itemize. The exception was Sarasota, Fla. Although the 27% of taxpayers who itemize there was below the national average of 33%, the share of Sarasotans who owed taxes was greater than the national average (21% versus 19%).

Of course, with the 2018 tax reform changes, fewer people will likely itemize when they file taxes this year since the standard deduction was raised.

More people face tax bills in the West. Eight of the top 10 metros where taxpayers owed the IRS were located in the Western United States. California metros took three of the top spots. But Denver was in a three-way tie for second place along with Sacramento and San Diego, where 22% of taxpayers owed Uncle Sam in all three metros. However, Denver has slightly bigger problems, given the average taxpayer there owes more — $5,642 on average, compared with San Diego ($5,298) and Sacramento ($4,299).

San Francisco ranks high on the list among those who owe taxes. One in four San Francisco taxpayers owes taxes when he or she files, we found, with an average tax bill of $7,261. That’s about 37% greater than the national average. San Franciscans might pay a lot come tax season but they also take home the sixth-largest tax refund – $3,506 vs. the $3,058 national average.

Where taxpayers are getting the biggest tax refunds

Overall, tax refunds fell slightly from a $3,052 average in last year’s study to $3,016 this year.

While the 10 cities where taxpayers receive the biggest tax refunds are the same year-over-year, however, refunds didn’t grow in every metro area. Tax refund amounts trended down in three Texas cities: McAllen, Houston, and Corpus Christi. San Francisco residents, on the other hand, saw the biggest increase in their tax refunds, getting back $40 more ($3,506 in this year’s study compared to $3,466 in last year’s study).

Where filers are most likely to owe taxes

When looking at the cities where more people ended up owing the IRS at the time of filing, not much has changed.

The average overall size of a tax bill in all top 100 metro areas jumped this year to $5,307 from $5,294. Similarly, the individual averages owed in each of these 10 cities went up. Boise, Idaho’s $120 jump in its average tax bill is the largest increase, dollar-for-dollar.

Higher tax bills correlate with larger tax refunds

A look at the average tax bills and refund amounts in each city reveals an interesting trend: higher tax bills are correlated positively with higher tax refunds.

In other words, the cities where people get fatter refund checks are also where filers who owe taxes will pay the most. The scatter plot below shows this relationship between high refunds and high tax bills.

Take Ft. Myers, Fla. as an example. This city has the biggest tax refunds at $3,833 — but it also has the highest average tax bill of any city, at $8,194.

Tax year 2018 will bring big changes

This study highlights some big trends and differences in tax burdens by city, but it’s based on a past iteration of the American tax code. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made sweeping changes to the U.S. tax code that officially took effect for the 2018 tax year (which is outside the five-year period looked at in this study).

So the 2019 tax season is the first time taxpayers will file a return under this new tax code, and the rule changes will bring surprises to many. Only 5% of taxpayers are expected to see their tax costs increase, according to the Tax Policy Center. But confusion over how the tax changes impacted withholding calculations could mean that many taxpayers have already paid too much or too little in taxes.

The proportion of itemized returns is also likely to decrease this tax season. The tax code overhaul included nearly doubling the standard deduction. Since filers have the option to take a standard deduction or itemize their returns, a higher standard deduction is likely to incentivize more of them to do the latter. As a result, itemized tax returns are expected to decrease from 26.4% to just 10.9% among filers, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Tips for filing taxes in 2019

Because the new tax laws will bring many changes, you should expect the unexpected this tax season. And on top of these new changes, the recent federal government shutdown could impact IRS functions and return processing. Here’s what you can do to get ahead of these major tax changes when filing your 2018 return.

File as early as you can. With potential delays at the IRS, it’s even more important to do your part to get your tax refund as soon as you can. The best way to do this is to file as early as possible — don’t put it off until the April 15th deadline. As a bonus, filing early is also a smart way to protect yourself from tax refund theft. And if you end up owing, you’ll also have more time to gather the funds needed to settle your tax bill by the deadline.

Get familiar with new tax forms. The previous years’ tax forms 1040A and 1040EZ are gone, replaced by Form 1040. The new 1040 will be simpler for many tax filers, but not all. Many people will need to file additional schedules with their Form 1040 to adjust taxable income or claimed some tax credits. It’d be wise to review these new forms and changes ahead of completing your return so you know what to expect.

Expect your tax situation to change. With the major changes to the tax code and withholdings in the 2018 tax year, taxpayers should not expect filing to be business as usual. Your tax refund could be higher or lower than it has been in previous years, or you might wind up owing a tax bill. Take a second look at your finances and budget and make a plan for how you’ll manage if you don’t get your usual refund.

If you owe a tax bill, pay it. If you find that you owe a tax bill, pay it as soon as you can. You can file for an extension to give yourself more time to complete a return, but at least 90% of your tax bill will still be due by the April 15th deadline. If you underpay, you’ll owe another 0.5% of the outstanding balance for each month your tax bill goes unpaid.

Consider hiring a professional. With so many tax code changes to grapple with at once, preparing your own taxes could come with more headaches and complications than usual. It could be a good year to hire the help of an accountant or other tax professional. They can review your tax situation, ensure your tax return is prepared correctly and help you identify any potential credits or deductions you might have missed on your own.

Read more: The Best Tax Software of 2019

Methodology:

Using IRS Statements of Income data, we aggregated the data for five years, for returns filed from Jan. 1, 2013 – Dec. 31, 2017 in the 100 largest U.S. metros.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Elyssa Kirkham
Elyssa Kirkham |

Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here

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