What is your question? The IRS reduced the withholding tables for 2018 so you didn't have as much withholding deducted from your paychecks so you got more back in you checks during the year. So you might end up owing or getting a smaller refund. Where are you losing $2,000?
I ran out of characters. How do I notate that I spent 2,000 dollars on the retirement account (which benefits every teacher enrolled in it in the state) instead of in social security? My husband looked to see how much he would get back if he filed alone and the number was 2,000 dollars higher than if we filed jointly. I think it's because of the retirement/social security problem. I think I have been overpaying for years if that is correct.
Filing separate returns is very unlikely to be more favorable to you. Many teachers do not pay into Social Security--your W-2 should show the retirement contribution you made instead of paying in to SS. You do not enter that anywhere else--it is just entered when you put in the information from your W-2.
Your spouse probably did not enter the data correctly for MFS if he had such a big difference:
Married Filing Jointly is usually better, even if one spouse had little or no income. When you file a joint return, you and your spouse will get the married filing jointly standard deduction of $24,000 (+$1300 for each spouse 65 or older) You are eligible for more credits including education credits, earned income credit, child and dependent care credit, and a larger income limit to receive the child tax credit.
If you choose to file married filing separately, both spouses have to file the same way—either you both itemize or you both use standard deduction. Your tax rate will be higher than on a joint return. Some of the special rules for filing separately include: you cannot get earned income credit, education credits, adoption credits, or deductions for student loan interest. A higher percent of your Social Security benefits may be taxable. Your limit for SALT (state and local taxes and sales tax) will be only $5000 per spouse. In many cases you will not be able to take the child and dependent care credit. The amount you can contribute to a retirement account will be affected. If you live in a community property state, you will be required to provide additional information regarding your spouse’s income. ( Community property states: AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, WI) If you are using online TurboTax to prepare your returns, you will need to prepare two separate returns and pay twice.
There are major tax law changes that have begun with this tax year. Personal exemptions of over $4000 per person were removed.
One thing that may be affecting your refund for 2018 is that employers began withholding less tax when the new tax law passed. Your paychecks were more, but that means a smaller refund now.
There are are lot of variables that affect your refund or tax due including how much you earned, how much tax you had withheld, your filing status, the number of dependents you claim, your deductions and credits, etc. You may have lost Earned Income Credit or the Child Tax Credit— did a child turn 17? If you received the EIC last year, remember that changes in the amount you earn have a big effect on the amount of EIC you can get. (Sometimes earning more money means less EIC) Are you 65 or older ? If so, your standard deduction is higher. Everyone has a higher standard deduction now so it is harder to use itemized deductions. Or do you have a healthcare penalty? We used to be able to suggest comparing two years of tax returns side by side to find the differences. But with the drastic change in the 2017 and 2018 forms, that is tricky this year. Another thing to compare is the amount withheld for federal tax in box 2 of your 2018 W-2 with the amount withheld for 2017.
And of course, always check your own data entries, looking for errors such as misplaced decimals or extra zeros.