Ahh, taxes. Ever since getting married, my husband and I are still trying to get our withholdings right so we don't end up with a refund.
2009: We married in June, so were able to file as "married filing jointly". I had donated two cars that year, we were tithing 10% of our net income, and we were both working. Even with the donation of two cars and tithing, we still had to take the standard deduction. I believe that year was the most "normal".
2010: Filed as "married filing jointly". I sustained an on-the-job injury in January, putting me out of work. At first, the school district continued to pay me because they always pay about 1.5 months behind. They had an insurance company that paid a portion of my lost wages. It wasn't the government's "disability" whatever, but my income was not taxable. I hoped to make it back to work, but it never happened. We continued to tithe and contributed to another nonprofit, so our tax liability decreased. In addition to that, part of my husband's income was not taxable It is considered per diem, which is supposed to be like a reimbursement for expenses incurred while traveling on the job. Since we're pretty conservative spenders, we were able to take home $10k tax-free, which we also tithed on. As a result, the husband's withholdings were too high and we received a bigger refund.
2011: Filed as "married filing jointly". We bought a house in June, so suddenly, we could deduct mortgage interest paid. That, in combination with our tithing, on taxable income and non-taxable income allowed us to itemize for the first time. We ended up with a $3500 refund, which is WAY TOO MUCH! At least it jump-started our baby fund, which will come in handy between now and June when we set up the nursery.
2012: Our tax situation will change again, when we add a baby to the family. Everything else should remain about like it was in 2011 (we hope).
Our goal is to come out receiving or owing less than $100 by the end of the year. We keep playing with the IRS's withholding calculator to try to figure out how to adjust the W-4, but the tables must be off. I'm sure having some tax-free income (per diem) skews things, but really. Why is it so hard to get this right? Can't we just go to a fair tax, flat tax, or even just a sales tax??? It would make things so much simpler.