Smaller Tax Refunds Surprise Those Expecting More Relief

There have been other complexities. Tax filers in places that require their state and federal returns to mirror each other — for example, if they take the standard deduction on their federal return, they must do the same on their state return — may end up owing more to their states than in the past. The reason: Standard deductions in states like Kansas, Virginia and Maryland are on the lower end.

As a result, tax pros in these states are suggesting running multiple sets of calculations. It may be worth sacrificing the larger federal standard deduction to itemize on the state level and get a bigger return there.

“If you are single with significant state income or real estate taxes, by choosing to deduct the lower amount of itemized deductions on your federal return you may reduce your overall federal and state tax due to the increased deduction on your Kansas return,” said Julie Welch, an accountant in Leawood, Kan. “It pays to run the calculation.”

Despite the confusion, some accountants have had the pleasure of delivering good news.

Conor Barnes, an accountant at Egan Tax & Books in New York, prepares returns for many renters who typically don’t have enough individual deductions to itemize their returns. Instead, those filers take the standard deduction, which has doubled.

“Now that the standard deduction is higher than what it has been,” Ms. Barnes said, “people without mortgage interest and real estate taxes are seeing a tax benefit they haven’t seen in prior years.”

She also works with a lot of freelance workers, including photographers, who didn’t realize they would receive a nice tax benefit from the new qualified business income deduction.

Jackson Hewitt, a tax preparer that caters to moderate-income clients, said it was seeing more filers with lower tax liabilities and higher refunds. Some were taking an immediate advance that would be paid back when their check arrived from the government.