I saw a story the other day that said Americans are shocked to find their tax returns are not as large as they’ve been in past years. The story said returns were down an average of 8.4 percent, dropping from $2,035 to $1,865 on the standard tax return.
I can say, from personal experience, it could be much worse. Last year when we filed taxes, we ended up owing money. Granted, it wasn’t a lot, but for many years we’d been getting the average refund mentioned above.
It turned out our W-4 had us each claiming the other as a dependent. We changed that and I even had them take an extra $20 a check out just to be on the safe side. I don’t like paying taxes anymore than anyone else, but you don’t know frustration until you have to write the IRS a check after you’ve spent the past year, taking all taxes into account, paying taxes well into five figures.
I thought we had it straightened out. I sat down to do the taxes this year and it looked like we were heading back for the $2,000 plus average and then I added the wife’s W-2 into the mix and turned out she owed $1,300 in taxes.
My first thought was to kick her out of the house, file for divorce and continue on getting my refund. But I calmed down and decided to be glad we at least weren’t having to pay again. We tried to figure out why the wife was bringing home an extra $1,500 a year compared to past years, only to have the government demand it right back, but everything looked right.
I knew there had been changes to the tax code. The standard deductible had been doubled and the White House has promised an extra $4,000 a year in every household. That sounds nice, but most of us would rather get it all at once than $77 a week when most of us won’t even notice it.
Especially if they want half of it back at the end of the year.
Because, as you may have realized, a lot of us use the IRS as an interest free savings account. Yes, you could save $4,000 a year by setting aside $77 a week, but come on. How many of us are going to do that? I put aside $100 a month in a money market account and that takes us down to the bone. I also put my mileage checks into the account, meaning I put more in from those two sources than the refund normally is.
But I only see it a little at a time, so it doesn’t mean as much to me as getting $2,000 all at once does. It’s been a long time since $100 seemed like a lot of money, but, unfortunately, $2,000 will always seem a like a lot.
The tax refunds this year, or lack of them, seems like they might be the thing to start putting cracks in President Trump’s support base. Both Facebook and Twitter are filled with posts by people saying they voted for Trump because he promised them an extra $4,000 in their pay but most of them are getting much less.
One man wrote he’d gotten back $6,000 the year before the tax cuts went into effect and he was so excited as he thought he would be getting back $10,000 with that extra $4,000. He got back $500 this year. He was not happy.
You don’t have to go very far to find an economist who will tell you that tax cuts don’t automatically mean a bigger refund. In fact, it usually means a smaller one because you’re taking home more in your paycheck. No matter how many times a politician says it, a tax cut is not a pay raise. Only one person can give you a pay raise and it’s not a politician. Well, unless you have a government job.
What a tax cut basically does, for a lot of people, is move your money from the refund to a weekly paycheck. And, as stated earlier, most of us don’t want that. We want a lump sum at the end of the year, not a few dollars here and there.
As for why so many are having to turn around and give that money right back? I guess you’d have to ask the president about that.