COLUMBIA, Mo. – Income tax refunds are ready to roll out. You might want to hold on to some of that cash.

Refunds are wages you earn throughout the year and should be thought of as hard-earned money rather than found money, says Andrew Zumwalt, personal finance specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

For the wise, a refund windfall is a chance to stash some of the cash in an emergency fund. Use some to pay down high-interest debt.

Zumwalt heads MU Extension’s VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program, which offers free tax preparation throughout the state for qualified individuals and households.

Zumwalt offers these financial tips:

• Save part of your refund for emergencies. Save $500-$1,000 or more for unexpected repairs or medical bills that could create a financial crisis and add to your debt.

• Jump-start a savings account with part of your refund. Have some of your refund electronically deposited into a savings account. You can have your refund direct-deposited into more than one account using IRS Form 8888.

• Pay down high-interest debt with some of your refund. If you have more than one credit card, pay off the card with the highest interest first.

For more personal finance information from MU Extension, including feature articles, answers to frequently asked questions and learning opportunities, go to